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Can Josh Allen be a franchise QB?

In the 2018 NFL draft, Josh Allen was selected 7th overall by the Buffalo Bills. The Bills gave up two second-round selections to move up five spots and land Allen. Since then the Bills have gone 6-10 in 2018, and 10-6 last year, with a first round exit in the playoffs. Today we will take a deep dive into the stats and film around the up and coming third year QB.

The stats

Before we get into the film, first we take a deep dive into the statistics surrounding Allen’s 2019 season. Let us begin by mentioning what has surprisingly become Josh Allen’s biggest weapon in his young NFL career; his rushing ability.


The runaway Bill

Allen racked up 510 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns in 2019. These stats are good for third and first respectively among quarterbacks and puts him in rarefied statistical air alongside MVP Lamar Jackson and former MVP Cam Newton.

The Allen critics will point to this rushing ability as a big reason Allen remains at the helm in Buffalo; alongside a fierce defense that carried the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff birth. But can long term success be gained with a QB who’s primary skill is rushing? Cam Newton came the closest of anyone. Now he is 31 years old, and without a starting job in the league. Lamar Jackson will continue to rewrite the record books and may well reset this narrative in the coming years, but there is always an exception to prove a rule – and Josh Allen doesn’t look like one.


The scattershot cannon?

As Allen matures and grows into a franchise quarterback that Buffalo hopes can lead them back to the promised land, he will need to become a more consistent passer. Below are Josh Allen’s ranks among NFL QBs in the following statistical passing categories:

  • 26th in yards per attempt (6.7 Y/A)
  • 32nd in Completion percentage (58.8%)
  • 23rd in Passing Touchdowns (20 TDs)
  • 23rd in passing Yards (3089)
  • 30th in Passing yards per game (193.1 Y/G)
  • 24th in Passer Rating (85.3)

What do these rankings and stats mean? Well, the low yards per attempt numbers show that he isn’t attempting/completing those deep shots; negating that famed armed strength.

Despite doing most of his work in the short and intermediate passing game, Allen ranked 32nd in completion percentage, clear and away the worst of the starting quarterbacks in 2019. This points to accuracy as an worrying issue.

Next up are the volume stats – yards per game and total passing yards. Both of these are low ranking, and in this pass heavy era of the NFL, these kinds of passing stats for a potential franchise quarterback are not ideal. The Bills were certainly a run heavy team, ranked 8th in rush attempts, but Allen was in the middle of the pack for pass attempts, which should allow for a higher ranking in both of these volume considerations.

More: Check out our picks for the NFL season win total overs and unders

Time to dig a little deeper with advanced stats, and look at how the Bills trigger man fares when analyzing his passing in specific areas:

  • 39th out of 42 qualifiers in On Target % (63.6)
  • 37th/42 in Catchable balls % (70.5)
  • 41st/41 in Deep Ball IQR (47)
  • 41nd/41 in Deep Ball Completion % (25.8)
  • 12th/41 in Intermediate IQR (101)
  • Four way tie for 12th/41 in Intermediate Completion % (60)
  • Six way tie for 26th/41 in Short Completion % (70)
  • 25th/41 in Short IQR (94)

So, more stats that don’t flatter Allen, but what do these mean? These advanced stats just goes to show how inaccurate Allen is as a passer. Now you might be asking, what the heck is IQR?

IQR is a useful stat that is defined by Sports Info Solutions:

“Sports Info Solutions’ proprietary quarterback metric builds on the traditional Passer Rating formula by considering the value of a quarterback independent of results outside of his control such as dropped passes, dropped interceptions, throwaways, etc.”

Sports Info Solutions

So, even when taking into account factors that Allen can’t control, he is the absolute worst deep ball passer in the entire NFL (41 out of 41).

What further solidifies the case against Allen is the on target and catch-able pass percentage. These two stats show that Allen ranks among the bottom of qualifiers in both categories – shifting the blame from receiver drops directly to Allen himself.

However, it should be noted that these stats aren’t all bad. In fact, Josh Allen is a well above average intermediate passer and his IQR and completion percentage at the intermediate level ranked in the top tier of quarterbacks. So are the Bills playing to his real strengths or was the hype around the arm strength of the young signal caller simply a combined narrative?

Check out the post NFL Draft Fantasy Football Stock Report here!

The tape

The tape junkies among you will point to the overused narrative that “a stat can be found to support any point – watch the guy play”. Unfortunately, Josh Allen has a lot of tape which supports the above stats.

To begin with, we look at Allen’s decision making. Allen doesn’t have terrible decision making, but he certainly makes rookie errors that must be cleaned up as soon as possible. In the above play in week one vs the Jets, he tries to force this pass into double coverage with plenty of traffic around the intended receiver. He luckily gets bailed out by defensive holding away from the play – a turnover avoided.
This clip from the wildcard game is a perfect example of ball placement vs accuracy. This pass is on target and it’s catchable by any metric, but it shows poor ball placement. The ball is placed too high and a bit behind, forcing the receiver to adjust, costing him multiple yards gained after the catch. If Allen puts the ball further in front and allows the receiver room to run, the receiver likely gains more yards after the catch.
Here, Allen holds onto the ball far too long and displays poor pocket presence. This is a perfect example of when a sack is a quarterback’s fault and indecision causes a sack. Allen has a good three and a half to four seconds to get rid of this pass with decent protection around him. The right tackle sends the edge rusher on a loop around the pocket, giving Allen time to read the field, but his fixation on the deep ball and his slow reading of the underneath routes means the rush gets home. He must get rid of the ball quicker to help out his offensive line.
Finally, one of the biggest issues with Allen as an elite QB is his lack of touch. Admittedly under intense pressure, Allen throws a laser to the corner of the end zone and over the receiver’s head. This is a recurring theme on his deep balls and led to his low rankings when throwing the ball downfield. To take the next step, he must learn to reign in the cannon he has attached to him and gives his receivers a chance to make plays.

So, how good can Josh Allen be?

Everything mentioned above paints a picture of a talented but flawed quarterback that has fundamental accuracy issues. Accuracy is notoriously one of the hardest problems to fix in the NFL, and Allen’s accuracy issues have followed him from college to the pros. Not being able to throw the ball deep has and will continue to significantly hinder the ability to field an explosive offense.

Hopefully, the addition of the talented Stefon Diggs and the emergence of a promising tight end group in Buffalo can help Allen develop these weaknesses and launch the Bills into championship contention. But unless Allen can improve at a rapid rate, the Bills would be wise to look for the gunslinger’s replacement in the coming years.

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