INDIANAPOLIS – The crazy journey that has led Josh Allen to this point, being up on a podium speaking earnestly about possibly being the first pick of April’s draft, isn’t lost on him.
“I’m taking this all in. It’s a surreal moment,” Allen said. “If you knew who I was three years ago, I don’t think you’d say this is possible.”
In December of 2014, Allen signed a letter of intent with Wyoming after playing at Reedley Community College. Wyoming isn’t a Power 5 conference team, but Allen didn’t have a choice. The Cowboys were the only FBS team that offered him a scholarship, he said.
“I was at junior college, I was begging teams to give me a scholarship,” Allen said. “Sending emails out and hoping to hear back from them. I got one opportunity and that was with the University of Wyoming. Thankfully they gave me an opportunity, and I took advantage of it.”
Baker Mayfield was a Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma, a historic football power. Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen were coveted recruits who went to high-profile Pac-12 teams at USC and UCLA. Among the four top prospects vying to be the top quarterback in this year’s draft, Allen is the outlier. Also, none of the other three grew up on a farm.
[Watch on Yahoo: Live stream the 2018 NFL scouting combine on Yahoo Sports’ website, app]
Allen said his dad owned 1,000 acres of a 2,000-acre farming operation in Firebaugh, California, with row crops of cotton, cantaloupes and wheat. Allen would help out moving irrigation pipes, picking weeds from the cotton field and driving tractors.
“Our outlet was sports, and that’s what we did, stayed competitive year round to try to stay off the field as much as we can,” Allen said about himself and his siblings. “But we did help out quite a bit.”
Allen’s journey is unique, but he belongs in the conversation because of his tremendous physical tools. He’s a touch under 6-foot-5, and 237 pounds. He is expected to run very well during that part of his combine workout. And his throwing arm is phenomenal. Ryan Flaherty, a sports performance coach, told NFL Network that Allen could throw a pass “89 or 90 yards” during the combine (h/t to Pro Football Talk).
“He’s not too far off, but 90 is a tough task,” Allen said.
The biggest concern with Allen is his accuracy. He completed 56 percent of his passes in 2016 and 56.3 percent in 2017. That’s usually a warning sign for NFL teams evaluating quarterbacks.
“It does worry me that he was a 56 percent guy,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said on a conference call. “I was going for a bunch of stuff a few weeks ago, trying to figure out how many college quarterbacks with sub-60 percent accuracy or completion percentages ended up being significantly better in the NFL. When you’re talking about high-level guys, I think Matthew Stafford was the only one guy I could find.”
Allen understands he needs to improve that area of his game. He said when he has missed throws it was because of his footwork, and he has been working with quarterback coach Jordan Palmer in California (Darnold is working out with Palmer too) to fix it. He said the work has included getting in uncomfortable positions and getting back to a solid base before he throws.
“We’re working on it, and there’s no doubt in my mind we’ll figure it out,” Allen said.
Allen said he “absolutely” thinks he’s the best quarterback in the draft, but acknowledged that doesn’t mean he’ll be the top pick. He said he would love to be the top pick. However, It might be ideal for him to get a year to develop as a backup behind a veteran starter. The quarterback who had to beg for a FBS scholarship out of junior college isn’t too worried about what might happen if he’s not the first quarterback off the board at April’s draft.
“Sometimes the best quarterbacks aren’t the guys taken No. 1,” Allen said.
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