Fool's Gold: Don't be tricked into relying on Josh Allen as your QB of the future

By Adam Hall
Adam Hall

 

 

Rise of the linchpin QB

With the rise of superflex in redraft and dynasty formats, picking a top end quarterback is more important than ever. Even though there are enough QBs to go around, a team needs two top-end quarterbacks to reach the fantasy playoffs and thrive. This is due to quarterbacks reliably score more than any other position on a week to week basis. A team could have a top-flight roster, but sub-par QB play more often than not leads to losing in the opening round of the playoff due to how competitive most money leagues are.
Josh Allen seemed to fit the bill of a franchise quarterback as he was the QB2 overall during the last 4 weeks of the 2018 fantasy season. Though when one looks closer the initial veneer fades exposing an unreliable exterior. Allen was marred with inconsistency largely of his own creation throughout the rest of the year. In 2018, Josh Allen played 12 games and was the 25th ranked QB in the year, but through weeks 8 and 16 where most of his best games were played, he only ranked as QB 23. This speaks to the primary aspect of Allen's game besides his rushing ability, which is his inaccuracy with the football.
Much has been made of Josh Allen's immense potential. Allen is an elite physical specimen with a frame that should be able to withstand the punishing hits of the NFL, enormous hands, and the strongest arm ever recorded at the NFL combine (62 MPH). With all of that said, historically speaking no one has been able to overcome the deficiencies that Allen has put on film throughout his career.
Antonio Brown recognized how dire the quarterback situation is in Buffalo and refused to report in large part because of it. Recent reports indicated that everything was in place for a trade that would send the all-pro to upstate New York, but Brown himself nixed the transaction. Beyond the location, it's clear why this happened, Brown doesn't have faith in Josh Allen's development, and neither should you.
According to my award-winning fantasy series on scouting QB performance, Josh Allen has the lowest chance of success of any quarterback to be drafted in the first round since 2001. Historically speaking quarterbacks who fail to achieve a higher completion percentage than 58.5 in their career, and don't continually develop their accuracy throughout their careers fail to prosper at the professional level. There are a myriad of other factors that play in the model and can be seen {HERE}.

 

 

 

 

Jumping into the numbers

Players rarely undergo a transformation after they get paid to play the game, and that is what we saw from Josh Allen in his rookie year. Allen finished the year with a 52.8 completion percentage, a 10:12 TD/INT ratio, and a QB rating of 67.9. These are good for the worst statistical performance of any QB not named Nathan Peterman last year. On face value, this is a putrid performance and doesn't point to a long and successful career for the 23-year-old.

Supporting cast
Many defenders point to the sub-par offensive line, and bottom-tier receiving corps that Allen had to play with in 2018 as an explanation for his putrid passing performance. While there is some legitimacy to these excuses, many of these issues have been overblown.
The Bills did have the 7th worst offensive line in 2018 according to [Pro Football Focus (PFF)]), though they were significantly better near the end of the year and had a rookie guard that only surrendered 8 pressures in the year. Allen's performance was better when the line was performing at their best, but Allen's play continued to be inconsistent even when he had enough time to read the entire field.
The Bills' wide receivers weren't the dumpster fire they were made out to be either, and many of the problems they dealt with were largely due to Allen's pass to pass inconsistency. Josh Allen had the fifth highest rate of off-target throws in the NFL [last year]) which is likely why his top receiver Zay Jones had a pedestrian catch rate of 55%. One way to determine when a receiver is reliable is to chart their drop percentage based on targets. Jones only dropped 3 passes on 102 targets for a drop rate of less than 3%. Usually sure handed players like Julian Edelman (7.4%), and Jarvis Landry (7.4%), and AJ Green (6.5%) all had more than double the drop rate than Jones. It's clear that Allen wasn't doing the work necessary to ensure Jones could prosper in 2018. To further solidify the point, late season breakout, Robert Foster, ranked in the top ten of the league in [DVOA], a metric that quantifies how well a receiver played compared to others in the same situation. Foster was yards after the catch monster and helped Allen pad his stats during the final portion of the year.
Allen had sufficient help at the receiver position and his offensive line performed better throughout the year, leaving only one explanation for his poor passing performance, and that is him.

Best stretch of performances
Allen finished out the season with a string of performances that ranked second in the league in fantasy output during the time. Though when we look closer, the performances were heavily dependent on explosive plays from positional players and his rushing ability. The strength of schedule of the teams should also not be ignored as they were largely lower tier defenses.

Last four games:
NYJ, DET, NE, MIA. Defensive rankings: NYJ: 25, DET: 10, NE: 22, MIA: 21.
Let's dive deeper into the numbers of these games.
NYJ:
Completions: 18, Attempts: 36, C%: 50.00, Yards: 206, TD: 0, INT: 2
Nearly 25% of his yards came on one play.
DET:
Completions: 13, Attempts: 26, C%: 50.00 Yards: 204, TD: 1, INT: 0
50% of his yards came from three plays.
NE:
Completions: 20, Attempts: 41, C%: 48.78, Yards: 217, TD: 1, INT: 2
More than 25% of his yards came from 2 plays.
MIA:
Completions: 17, Attempts: 26, C%: 65.38, Yards: 224, TD:3, INT: 1
Nearly 33% of his yards came from 2 plays.
Here is a summation of the four games:

Completions: 68, Attempts: 129, C%: 52.71, Yards: 851, TD: 5, INT: 5, Rating: 70.3
When taken as a composite, these results leave much to be desired. They show a heavy reliance on explosive plays, many of which are derived from substantial yards after catch numbers generated by positional players.

Allen's supposed strengths
Deep ball passing
During a recent conversation in a cover1 [article] details of Allen's better play in the latter half of the season came up. The article claims that Allen's season was supercharged after he returned from his four-game absence after his elbow injury. The primary argument in the article is that Allen's deep ball does enough to make him a legitimate option as at quarterback going forward. Furthermore, once he acquired better receiving options his productivity increased along with them.
This article cherry picks data while refusing to look at the overall picture created by Allen's 2018 performance. Instead of trying to explain away the arguments by focusing on Allen's poor performances, we can look to his "strongest" part of his game, his deep ball. [Brickwallblitz] charts deep passes in a similar fashion to profootball focus, where passes are tracked for context and chance for success. This system found Allen to be the 27th best deep ball passer in the NFL last year. Allen had the highest average intended air yards in the NFL last year (11 yards per attempt). Thus, it would make sense that he would have one of the highest completed air yards in the league (6.5) which was good for 9th best in the NFL. Though when you adjust for the fact that the opportunity for more completed yards was the highest in the NFL the average becomes much more pedestrian. Allen was dead last in the NFL last year in average air yards differential (-4.6). Granted stating that Allen was last in the NFL at deep ball efficiency per opportunity doesn't explain the severity of the statistic. The second worst in the NFL last year was Jeff Driskel with a -3.1, Allen was nearly 50% worse than the second worst player in the NFL in this metric, which is supposed to be Allen's [strongest point]. Much of this makes sense when you account for the fact that Allen wasn't in the top ten in deep pass accuracy even though he largely depended on it to generate [production]. It is plain to see that Allen's inefficient passing ability extends to his deep ball as well.

Rushing acumen
Josh Allen had three consecutive games with 100 yards rushing or more. He also averaged more than seven yards a rush. These numbers are nothing to make light of as Allen was literally the Bills' best running back last year. Though there is a reason that quarterbacks aren't the primary rushers of their teams, quarterbacks get injured more quickly, and in Allen's case he rushes so often that teams can stack the box and increase the physical punishment that the quarterback will face. This shouldn't be an issue for a player with Allen's frame, but at 23 he already has an extensive injury history. Allen has broken his right collarbone twice, including a devastating shatter fracture in his first year at Wyoming. His clavicle was broken in [seven spots]( https://brownswire.usatoday.com/2018/04/10/josh-allens-shoulder-injuries-deserve-more-attention/). Allen also missed Wyoming's final two regular-season games in 2017 after suffering an injury to the same shoulder. Aaron Rodgers has suffered similar injuries over the course of his career and has broken his collar bone on multiple occasions. Allen then had a [UCL joint] issue in his throwing arm which sidelined him for four games during the 2018 season. According to [Sportsinjurypredictor.com] Allen has a 50% of significant injury in the 2019 season with an average number of games missed at 5.5. This contrasts with a low injury projection player like Matt Ryan who only has a 19.6% injury chance and an expected number of games missed at .2. One can deduce from a conservative reading of these numbers that Allen will have to play a more conservative style of play to increase his on-field time along with his career longevity. Many health issues have cropped up for players who run the ball excessively including Andrew Luck's and Cam Newton's shoulder issues, Michael Vick's concussions, and the myriad of issues that Colin Kaepernick suffered during his short career. If Allen is going to depend on his legs to generate fantasy production, owners will suffer when the injuries mount and Allen misses more games.

 

 

 

 

Comparisons end with the legs

After Allen racked up 631 yards and eight touchdowns in 12 games, all while weighing in at 237 lbs with a 6'5" build, the Cam Newton comparisons were running wild. Once one digs deeper into the performance, the comparison ends with the rushing acumen and the body type.
Just taking a look at their college stats and their first-year performance in the NFL, it's plain to see that the two players have been on different trajectories from the start.

Josh Allen college stats:

 

 

Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int
365 649 56.2 5066 7.8 7.7 44 21


TD/INT ratio of 2.09
25 games played.
Wonderlic: 37
Hand Score: 13.15

Cam Newton college stats:

Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int
91 292 65.4 2908 10 10.9 30 7


TD/INT ratio of 4.28
14 games played
Wonderlic: 21
Hand Score: 12.82

Josh Allen Rookie Stats:
Passing:

Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Lng Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate QBR
169 320 52.8 2074 10 3.1 12 3.8 75 6.5 5.4 12.3 172.8 67.9 52.3


Rushing:

 

Rush Yds TD Lng Y/A Y/G A/G
89 631 8 45 7.1 52.6 7.4

 


Cam Newton Rookie Stats:
Passing:

 

Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Lng Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate QBR
310 517 60 4051 21 4.1 17 3.3 91 7.8 7.2 13.1 253.2 84.5 58.1


Rushing:

Rush Yds TD Lng Y/A Y/G A/G
126 706 14 49 5.6 44.1 7.9

 


Side by side, Allen was a more efficient rusher, but was dwarfed by Newton in the passing game. This is the same outcome that the projection modeled last year. It was expected that Allen would rely on his legs while losing a series of games with his arms.
Newton has continually gotten better over the course of his NFL career, but the story could be found in the numbers that he put up at Auburn. Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Patrick Mahomes, and so many others put success on film and were able to take the leap at the next level. Though, no one since 2001 has been able to develop into a well-rounded QB in the NFL with the resume that Allen has brought to bear.

 

 

 

Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Over the off-season players will be hyped and downplayed for their plausible strengths and imagined weaknesses. Though, one does not have to imagine when they have the luxury of numbers and history on their side. Allen has an immense potential, but even if the Bills stack the roster with play-makers, they are still likely to be held back by a quarterback whose first instinct is to run, and with it take the punishment that will make any dynasty player regret putting their faith in him.