With the 2017 NFL draft in the books, it’s only natural to start speculating wildly about how things will turn out a year from now at the 2018 Draft. Draft nerds like Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have already started talking about big boards and mock drafts for next April. While a lot is sure to change between now and then, this early discussion almost always centers around whether or not there will be a franchise quarterback for the taking early in the draft. While this year’s class didn’t have anyone worth breaking the bank to trade up for (sorry, Bears fans), next year’s class is another story.
— Brandon Foster (@BFoster91) April 29, 2017
Darnold made himself known with a performance for the ages at the Rose Bowl, and Rosen has been touted as a NFL prospect out of a Power 5 conference, despite injuries. So how does a small-school QB who has started less than a full NFL season’s worth of games in Division I football find himself in the way-too-early franchise quarterback talk?
Allen came to Wyoming out of junior college after receiving just two FBS scholarship offers. Marek Warszawski of the Fresno Bee wrote in December about Allen’s fascinating back story and entertained the question of how so many other college programs missed out on him.
Allen put up solid — although far from perfect — numbers in Wyoming’s 8-6 2016 season. The good? 3203 yards passing and 28 touchdowns, along with seven rushing touchdowns on 523 yards. The bad? A 56 percent completion percentage and 15 interceptions. With this year’s weak quarterback class, talk started after Wyoming’s bowl game about whether he would declare after just one full season. While fully disclosing myself as a Wyoming fan, Allen made the right choice in returning to the Cowboys for the 2017 season. From the highlights above, it’s not hard to see how Allen rose out of relative obscurity from of a small town in California to being name-dropped by Adam Schefter. But, as his numbers indicate, Allen is still very raw.
The tools are there: the prototypical build for an NFL QB at 6’5″ and 234 pounds, the big arm to throw accurate passes deep down the field and an ability to scramble and throw on the run. He’s demonstrated an ability to perform in big games and was one of several key factors in Wyoming’s turnaround after a 2-win season in 2015. After just 15 FBS starts, he’s now drawn comparisons to Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers and even John Elway. More naturally, one could look at Carson Wentz, who also came out of the pro-style offense run by Craig Bohl and Brent Vigen while at North Dakota State.
Allen absolutely would have been considered as one of the top signal-callers in this draft had he chosen to leave. But now that he’ll remain at Wyoming, there will be room for him to improve on some weaknesses that might still be leaving some unsold on his NFL future. He’s shown questionable judgement at times, as evidenced by the 15 interceptions last season. The pick he threw in field goal range with time winding down in Wyoming’s Poinsettia Bowl loss vs. BYU will probably haunt me in my nightmares indefinitely. He makes unbelievable plays while on the run, but those plays are high-risk, high-reward in college and almost always an interception in the NFL (unless you’re Aaron Rodgers).
In addition, Allen will be without his top-three targets and star running-back from last season’s team. There are promising young receivers waiting in the wings, but they aren’t likely to replace the production of Tanner Gentry, who was Allen’s favorite deep threat. With Brian Hill gone out of the backfield, Allen’s role could be increased in the offense as a whole. Last but certainly not least, is all this hype. There is a lot of uncertainty for Wyoming as a team, but with praise for Allen piling up, this will be the most anticipated season of Wyoming football since the 1980’s. NFL scouts are sure to be flocking to Laramie every week to watch Allen play, and the pressure to perform will be intense.
But If Allen can stay healthy, handle the mounting pressure, repeat his success with a young Wyoming offense and cut down on costly mistakes, we very well could see him holding a #1 (49ers? Browns? Jets?) jersey on stage in April 2018.