By audience request, the first sections of our 2016 Brandon Allen scouting report. Written January 2016.
NFL Draft 2016 Scouting Report: QB Brandon Allen, Arkansas
*Our QB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available.
The scouting report is going to reflect a sad, but true reality of the NFL. Here are my two main statements after scouting Brandon Allen’s numbers and tape from 2015:
1: I would argue that Brandon Allen is probably the second-best quarterback in the draft (of the 20+ I’ve studied in-depth to this point), in terms of natural instinct as a passer. He reads defenses, moves around in the pocket, and gets the ball to receivers in the proper location better than any quarterback in the draft, arguably, aside from Cal’s Jared Goff.
2: Brandon Allen will probably never take a snap as a starter in the NFL, ever. In fact, despite being a very gifted quarterback, he probably won’t get drafted.
In a lot of areas of our lives, traditional axioms have been shattered in recent years. Technology is speeding up the rate at which advancements take place, or shifts occur—better ways are found, and people are always exploring new paths less traveled. The way we purchase and play our music. The destruction of network television by cable upstarts, and Netflix. The growing demise of the traditional shopping mall and retail store versus Amazon. The politicians we prefer or eschew. Most everything in our lives we held as true just 3-5-10 years ago is either getting replaced with a radical new way, and/or is getting exposed as never being the proper way in the first place. Nutrition. Your house as a great investment. Owning a vehicle versus leasing one. Education methods and techniques. Exercise and weight training. Everything is evolving in a quest to find the better way…to ultimately find the best way. There’s a maverick or two or an entire millennial generation willing to explore alternatives in everything…everywhere except for NFL scouting and team management. The concepts governing those institutions are seemingly written in stone, and unquestioned.
Brandon Allen has everything going against him ever making it in the NFL…according to the laws of scouting. He measures under 6’2” (he’s 6’1.4”). He has small hands—an NFL death measurement of 8.5 inches. He’s not incredibly mobile, nor does he have the vaunted big arm. He is professional scouting ‘death on a stick’. D.O.A. for the NFL.
What Allen also is—is an excellent quarterback. Not elite. Not a future Hall of Famer. But a guy who could start and win games in the NFL. If Kirk Cousins, who is one inch taller than Allen, is the Flavor of the Month, and about to become a multimillionaire after a half of a good season...I have no idea why Brandon Allen could not draw a similar hope from NFL decision makers. In fact, had he played for Michigan State, instead of Arkansas, Allen might get a little extra boost. Again, everything about Brandon Allen is wrong for the NFL. Wrong size. Wrong school. What great QBs come out of the Arkansas program of late…Ryan Mallett, Tyler Wilson? The fact that Allen dropped a total 13 TDs/0 INTs in his two games in 2015 against NFL Draft prospect-laden SEC defenses Mississippi and Mississippi State, seems to be no cause for concern…did you see how small his hands are?
I watched both of his Mississippi games on tape, trying to find a reason to downgrade Allen. To write him off…the find out why he had these aberrations. In most games, in 2015, Allen was good/solid statistically, but not crazy off the charts. So why did he explode against the Mississippi’s? I studied those games, and I saw the same quarterback I’d seen in all the other 2015 tape…a quality quarterback, who can sit in a pocket or roll out and find open receivers and throw it to them in stride to make big plays all over the field. He was not just executing some spread offense with a bunch of bubble screens like most successful college quarterbacks do. In fact, the Arkansas system was about as pro style as you were going to find in college football—it is the anti-spread offense. Allen ran the offense to perfection. In the two Mississippi games, Allen’s team got into uncharacteristic shootouts, so Allen dropped 6.5 TDs/0.0 INTs, 424.0 yards per game, with 72% completion percentage and 50+ points scored in each contest. Normally, Arkansas played a more controlled style of offense—running the ball 39 times per game and passing 29 times per game in 2015.
I’ll tell you when I really got sold on Allen—his game against Alabama in 2015. Obviously, the best team he faced last season. He did not rack up huge stats, nor did his team win (176 yards, 2 TD/1 INT, 47% comp. pct.). So, on the surface, you could look past it as a nothing or weak performance. Certainly, nothing that would help his draft candidacy. However, if you watched and tracked every play, you would see the makings of a real NFL-style quarterback.
For most of the game with Alabama, at Alabama, Arkansas/Allen controlled the slugfest of a game. Late into the third quarter, Arkansas led 7–3. Not an offensive explosion for the Hogs by any means. However, if you watch this game play-by-play from Allen’s perspective, facing a stellar Alabama defense on the road, and you watch him at work, trying to find the weakness to exploit, despite a running game that could do nothing—Allen was subtly amazing. Battling a tremendous defense and getting some very bad breaks on drops and questionable referee calls, Allen was still leading his team to victory, and really had chances to seize control for about 2.5 quarters. Arkansas turned conservative late in the third quarter, running the ball a bunch (to nowhere), their defensive wall broke, and the floodgates started to open. Before all of that, Brandon Allen was ‘willing’ this team to victory at Alabama. He’s that kind of quarterback. He doesn’t scare you at first glance, but the next thing you know he’s methodically slicing apart your defense against all odds. When not as overmatched by the opponent, he could utterly destroy an opponent (see the Ole Miss and Miss State games).
Again, in context, you have to consider the Arkansas offense was one based on a big O-Line and running game. It was not like Jared Goff at Cal where everything ran through the QB unleashed. For Arkansas’s offense, everything ran through the coaches and the offensive line. Had the coaches turned things over more to Allen, their season might’ve gone a whole lot better. An opportunity blown by over-coaching, in my opinion. Another hidden sign within this offense as more pro-style—Allen actually worked his tight ends in the passing game—9 TD passes to tight ends in 2015, and he’s making Hunter Henry a top TE prospect, when he might be more average with the benefit of Allen ‘making’ him. Because there is a bias against Allen, Henry will be seen as helping Allen; not the other way around.
Be that as it may, we still have the question of does any of this mean that Brandon Allen is ready for the NFL. I think he is, mentally…intuitively. He has a gift. The gift of playing quarterback. Some guys just have ‘it’. Some other guys are just super tall with strong arms that are pushed to quarterback because of their physical profile, but they really don’t have that ‘sixth sense’ about playing the position. Allen has the opposite problem. He has the gift, but not the body the NFL is looking for…and the shorter you are, the more disadvantage you are at in the NFL, but QBs are disproving it more and more now. As I watched the Alabama-Arkansas game, I couldn’t help but notice the contrast between physically, mechanically near-perfect Jacob Coker, who plays like a scared, contained quarterback every time I look at him. On the other side of the field was the naturally gifted pocket passer Brandon Allen, who just does not look the NFL part at a glance. If you could put Allen’s instincts for pocket passing into Coker’s body, you have possibly the #1 quarterback in the NFL Draft. However, that Frankenstein project is not possible…so judging by Allen’s actual physical attributes means he’s not likely to get a serious look in the NFL.
Allen has a shot because he has talent, but man are there a number of roadblocks in his way for him to reach the NFL pinnacle of a legit starting opportunity.
Brandon Allen, Through the Lens of Our QB Scouting Algorithm:
In three specific games in 2015 (UTEP, Ole Miss, Miss State), Allen threw for a combined 17 TD/0 INT. In all his other 10 games played in 2015, he tallied a more moderate 13 TDs/8 INTs…which is a little jarring for his statistical trending. The averages are good, spiked by the three big games. The ‘mode’ (not median or mean) is 1–2 TD/0–1 INT in each game for Allen—not as exciting.
In his last 16 games played, Allen has a 10–6 record with 35 TD/8 INTs.
In his last seven games of college play, five against bowl teams, Allen went 6–1 (the loss by one point on a late comeback by Miss State) with a 69.0% completion percentage, 272.0 yards per game and 20 TD/4 INT…with three 300+ yard games, two of them 400+ yard efforts.
As I look over Allen’s career, there is a natural progression of improvement each season, and as each season wore on. In his first 18 games, Allen was 6–12 with 26 TDs/15 INTs. In his final 19 games, a 12–7 record with 37 TDs/9 INTs.
In three games versus Alabama, Allen had an 0–3 record, 3 TDs/3 INTs and a 44.3% completion percentage (7-of-25 against them in 2013).
In three games versus LSU, a 2–1 record with 3 TDs/2 INTs.
In bowl games, Allen was 2–0 with 3 TDs/1 INT.
Over the past two years, Allen sported a 15–11 record…all 11 losses to bowl teams.
As I look over the sea of statistical clues, I could probably craft a fine argument for him, and identify a few reasons to worry. I think in the end, there’s something here, but it’s not obvious or for sure.
The Historical QB Prospects to Whom Brandon Allen Most Compares Within Our System:
I’m rooting for Brandon Allen, so I was depressed when I saw Aaron Murray as our system’s top database match for him. I think I’ll just wander a few spaces down and enjoy the Drew Brees comp. Somewhere between Brees and Murray lies Allen.
I forgot we tinkered with Kurt Warner in our system—ignore it, we didn’t have the right info. We used what we did have for fun to run him in our system analysis many years ago. However, if Allen rises up to become a Hall of Famer, after a stint bagging groceries…then don’t say we didn’t warn you.
*QB Comparison Matrix and rest of the report are on his CFM official scouting report posted in 2016 Archives.*
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