NFL Draft Analytic Breakdown: Josh Allen’s Completion Percentage

01/19/2018
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Nov 11, 2017; Colorado Springs, CO, USA; Wyoming Cowboys quarterback Josh Allen (17) prepares to pass the ball in the second quarter against the Air Force Falcons at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

 

Sixty percent. Every year, this number is tossed around when quarterbacks are being discussed ahead of the NFL Draft. The art of identifying a franchise quarterback is so mystical that it almost seems foolhardy to suggest that a simple yes/no question can determine who will or won’t be a successful franchise starter. That being said, few in the NFL had a better career than Bill Parcells, and this was one of his golden rules for selecting a franchise quarterback: He has to complete more than 60 percent of his passes in college. This is relevant in 2018 because of one draft darling: Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. Standing six-foot-five, 240 pounds and wielding a howitzer on his right arm, Allen has draft reporters (and anonymous scouts) wide-eyed with his athletic potential. There’s a problem though: Allen has never completed 60 percent of his passes in college and, in fact, his career completion percentage is only 56.1. At this point in his college career, Allen has played with inconsistent mechanics, leading to bad throw trajectories from time to time.

The rule holds up. The greatest quarterbacks since 2000 who never threw for 60 percent in any of their college seasons: Josh McCown, Tyrod Taylor, Shaun Hill, Derek Anderson, Brian Hoyer, and Kyle Boller. This rule doesn’t suggest to you that anyone who completes 61 percent of his passes in a season will be a star, but it does help you eliminate a wide swath of rough so you can keep sifting for diamonds.

From 2000 to 2017, the best quarterbacks to complete their college career with a completion percentage of less than 58 were Ken Dorsey, J.P. Losman, Jay Cutler, Kyle Boller, Matthew Stafford, Patrick Ramsey, and Tyrod Taylor. Most of these quarterbacks improved their completion percentage year-over-year and finished with a season near or above the magical 60 percent threshold.

Allen only started two seasons before entering the NFL Draft, and he saw his percentage tick from 56.0 to 56.3 in that time. For comparison’s sake, Lamar Jackson, another controversial prospect in this draft, also has a career completion percentage below 58 percent. But in three seasons, he’s improved from 54.7 to 56.2 to 60.4.

Some may suggest that Allen’s numbers are depressed in 2017 because of a weakened supporting cast (most of his top targets graduated after 2016). It’s true that he’s playing with several freshmen, but in terms of drop rate, Allen’s receivers only dropped 4.8 percent of his passes this season.

Among the top quarterback prospects, only Sam Darnold had a better drop rate from his receivers, while Baker Mayfield and Jackson had more than eight percent of their passes dropped.

Another explanation for Allen’s poor numbers is the pro-style offense he plays in, which gives him fewer easy throws. That was the argument used to prop up Connor Cook two years ago, but Cook was a mid-round pick and remains relegated to the third string behind E.J. Manuel. Allen also doesn’t help himself, choosing to force difficult throws when he would be more successful checking down or scrambling for a few yards.

The NFL Draft process, with its exhibition games, player interviews, metric workouts, and team visits, still has to play out. But when April comes around, teams with a Parcells influence will have Allen removed from their draft boards due to his passing metrics. Even so, it only takes one team to fall in love with his physical abilities and make him their franchise cornerstone. Despite his raw ability, history indicates they’re making a mistake.

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