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2018 NFL Draft: First-Round Draft Night Preview

Finally, the 2018 NFL Draft is here. With the draft very close, I became curious about what others in the media thought about perhaps the most polarizing player in this draft: Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. What I found was not surprising, but before we get into that, I have the same message from last year before the 2017 NFL Draft:


Before we get started, one side note: getting drafted to play professional football is a dream for most of these guys; so maybe try to avoid being overly negative towards the young guy that’s getting drafted—there’s no need to @ (on social media) players your favorite team just drafted and tell them they’re terrible during one of the greatest moments of their life.


No one agrees with every single decision their favorite team makes, and maybe you aren’t a big fan of certain players for whatever reason. But a good rule to keep in mind is to not say anything through a phone or keyboard that you wouldn’t say to that player’s face.


. . .



Most people thought last year was exciting because of the uncertainty about where guys might get drafted, but this year has far more mystery—which is exciting. After the elite group of players (Saquon Barkley, Josh Allen, Bradley Chubb, Roquan Smith, and Quenton Nelson, in my opinion), there’s another ten or so players I would feel confident about as top-ten selection. After that, there is a lot that’s up in the air.


The quarterbacks are the big question mark heading in. The consensus “big five” is considered (in alphabetical order): Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen. Opinions are basically all over the place with the five guys, but where they land will have a huge impact on the first round and the rest of the draft. Also, Mason Rudolph (who could surprise as a first-rounder), Mike White, Luke Falk, and Kyle Allen are among the other quarterbacks that could become starters in the NFL.


This year’s running back group is similar to last year’s, as it’s very talented and has the potential for multiple 1,000-yard rushers in 2018. Saquon Barkley of course headlines the group, and I would have no hesitation taking him first overall.


. . .


Josh Allen

Because the majority of people apparently watched Josh Allen and Wyoming play a lot, they just know the rocket-armed quarterback won’t be any good in the NFL. As someone that actually watched Allen as much as I could, I like him. This section is dedicated to attempting to find out where all the hate comes from.


I was curious if there was some great, constructive criticism out there of Allen based off his play on the field. A quick Google search of “josh allen not good” did the job.


The first result was from 247Sports, titled “How bad is Josh Allen? Look at these stats:”. The headline tells me all I need to know, and clicking on that article does not seem like it will give me close to a good explanation on why Allen is “bad.”


After scrolling down, there is an article from The Ringer, titled “Josh Allen Hype Season Has Officially Arrived”. It was unclear at first whether it was a fair piece or not, but the bottom of the description says: “I just keep coming across one problem when I consider Allen as a prospect: He does not seem especially good at playing football.”


To me, that description is so pompous and arrogant that it’s annoying. It sounds like something from someone that thinks they are a lot smarter than they really are. Obviously, you aren’t going to like every player out there, but there are better ways to articulate your opinions on a prospect.


Nevertheless, this was an article that in some ways encapsulates the issues about declaring Allen “does not seem especially good at playing football.” It goes over some plays during Allen’s career at Wyoming and attempts to showcase why he is a bad quarterback. I went in with an open mind.


The thoughts gleamed from the videos are comical. You can look for yourself if you want, but the writer attempts to show Allen’s inaccuracy with four plays.


On the first play, it looks like a clear throw-away to me. There was nothing there and he was ready to get pressured, so he sailed it out of reach to avoid an interception. (Also, the receiver appears to stop running.)


On the next play, Allen doesn’t show good footwork when the rush comes and doesn’t set his feet when he throws the stick, but he did throw the ball low and away, which is what you want to see to avoid a turnover.


Then on the final two plays, a couple of incomplete swing passes are shown. Are they perfect throws? No. But they both certainly could have been caught by the running back (especially the first one).


Going into the four plays with an open mind, the thing I got from it was that Allen appears to go through his progression effortlessly. He goes from one to two to three and even to four, which is exactly what you want to see from a quarterback. Maybe on the stick play he should’ve hit the far outside receiver, but that appeared to be his fourth or fifth option post-snap after he scanned from left to right.


Then predictably, the article went into Allen’s stats, supposedly fortifying the rock-solid evidence on tape of his inaccuracies.


In the media, some narrative started that college stats are somehow what makes a good NFL quarterback prospect. I totally disagree. All players are their own entities, and you need to take everything into the equation—there isn’t just one set thing.


Also, stats do not measure heart, attitude, mindset, and potential for growth. Just look at Tom Brady and Joe Montana. They are probably the two greatest quarterbacks of all-time, but they didn’t put up huge college stats. Evaluating a quarterback takes a lot more than stats, but the media is now attempting to push stats as the determining factor for quarterback prospects.


This article from ESPN in 2008 ahead of that year’s NFL Draft makes my case. Using college stats, they basically argued Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco weren’t worth where they would be selected (in the top-five and in the top-20, respectively). Ryan was called “a significant risk” and Flacco was supposedly someone it would be risky to promise millions of dollars to. How did that turn out? (Please, spare me from looking at Flacco’s stats and telling me he isn’t any good.)


I can’t imagine what you’d be seeing online and on Twitter if it was around when Dan Marino was at Pitt.


Coaching, scheme, schedule, level of competition, teammates (supporting cast), and many other factors go into the statistical success of a player. The point of an evaluation is to determine if you believe the quarterback can have success in the NFL as well as grow and progress.


People keep pointing at completion percentage when discussing Josh Allen. Drew Brees is a perfect example of why you should not get caught up on college completion percentage. He was at 60.4 percent during his senior season at Purdue, but he is one of the most accurate passers of all-time and now has the highest career completion percentage in NFL history. Those that looked at his 60.4 percent completion percentage clearly missed something.


The bottom line is everyone is their own person and their own football player. There is no set determining factor to evaluate a franchise quarterback. Guys with outstanding stats or metrics could turn out to not be good in the NFL, and guys that didn’t put up big numbers in college or might not have perfect measurables could turn out to be stud franchise quarterbacks—and in some cases, Hall of Famers.


Time will tell how successful Allen is, but his potential lack of success won’t be because he completed 56.2 percent of his passes at Wyoming.


And if you won’t take my word for it then ask two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Phil Simms.



. . .




There will be a huge surprise pick

This is an easy one given the uncertainty at the top of the draft. Last year, it was Mitchell Trubisky at No. 2 overall that was a complete shock to pretty much everyone. This year, I think it will happen in the top-two again, with the Giants selecting Josh Allen with the second overall pick. Giants GM Dave Gettleman seems like he is a guy that keeps his house in order. Maybe it would leak out that they plan on taking Saquon Barkley (which is who I would take), but it might just be a giant smokescreen to make sure they get their desired quarterback. It’s worth noting that Giants offensive coordinator Mike Shula was Cam Newton’s quarterbacks coach then offensive coordinator the last seven seasons. Newton and Allen are different players, but they do have some similarities. So the surprise pick for me is Josh Allen to the Giants.


Someone trades way up to the top ten

Below, I give a mock for the first ten picks of the draft, but I don’t include this in there. It’s so difficult to project a trade from the back half of the first round, but a team like the Steelers or Falcons might decide to make a big move up for one of the top five players in the draft if they fall outside the top five. Because this draft is seen as having less than a handful of elite non-quarterbacks, and because quarterbacks are expected to go early, this could be the year it happens. Giving up a ton of picks to make a big move has worked out in the past (like Atlanta getting Julio Jones), and the Steelers and Falcons are two teams with strong enough rosters to make a similar move tonight.


Vita Vea goes in the top ten

During much of the fall, it seemed big Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea was going to be in the discussion for a top-five selection in the draft. Since then, things have cooled a bit, but I think some team might love his potential and select him higher than expected. There simply aren’t many guys built like Vea, who is huge yet very athletic for a big defensive tackle. He might go in the back half of the top ten.


The Patriots don’t take a quarterback in the first round

I wouldn’t be completely shocked if the Patriots took Lamar Jackson or another quarterback, but I don’t see it happening. Josh Rosen is someone that’s been connected to New England if he falls, but I really don’t see that happening. Rosen wore an “F— Trump” hat on one of President Trump’s golf courses back in 2016. Both owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick are friends with President Trump, and I would think they are aware that Rosen did that. If the Pats think he’s good enough on the field, maybe they won’t care; but overall, the team might decide they need help on defense and go in that direction with both their first-round selections. Watch out for Mike White or another signal-caller on Day 2 of the draft.


. . .


Top Ten Mock Draft

These are my predictions for what I believe will happen tonight in the top ten. I’m not even 100% sure on No. 1, but it’s a fun exercise.


1. CLE: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

2. NYG: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

3. NYJ: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

4. CLE: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

5. DEN: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State

6. OAK (via IND): Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

7. TB: Derwin James, S, Florida State

8. CHI: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama

9. SF: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

10. IND (via OAK): Vita Vea, DL, Washington


. . .


Top Ten Prospects

I did not watch as much on the draft class as I would have liked to, but I watched enough to rank the top-ten players like last year. I agree with much of our only big board, but here is my top ten:


1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

2. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

3. Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State

4. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

5. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

6. Sam Darnold, QB, USC

7. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

8. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama

9. Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

10. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State


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