On Monday, Bleacher Report NFL Draft lead writer Matt Miller put out a mock draft that turned some heads with the name he had going third overall to the Chicago Bears: Wyoming redshirt sophomore Josh Allen. Allen has yet to announce whether he will return to Wyoming for his junior year or enter the draft.
I caught up with Miller on Monday night to talk about Allen and his latest mock draft.
Brandon Foster: So are you getting a lot of people asking you who Josh Allen is?
Matt Miller: Yes. I kind of started writing about him a couple weeks ago, and it was like a, ‘Hey, here’s a name to know for next year.’ And then the more I started to poke around about him, people were like, ‘Well, you know, he hasn’t really decided what he’s going to do for 2017. He could still come out.’ When I did the mock draft today, I thought, ‘You know what? Let’s just throw his name in the mix and see what happens.’ What would the feedback be like from people in the NFL? What would readers think? What would he think? I don’t know if he’s going to come out or not, but I definitely think that in this quarterback class, we have to be talking about him as a possibility until he makes a decision. So it’s tough, because in my position, I don’t want to influence a kid in any way. But at the same time, you have to talk about the best players in the country. And I think he kind of falls in that area, where I want to stay away enough to not influence what he’s doing and to make sure that he knows we’re five months away from the draft and a lot can change. But at the same time, NFL people are talking about him.
BF: When did Allen first come across your radar?
MM: I think it was right after the Nebraska game, honestly, which was such a rough game for him. But I have a good friend who scouts that area, so it was more about, ‘Man, this kid’s composure and his toughness and the traits are all really there. He’s going to be someone we’ll probably talk about over the next few years.’ And it’s just like, OK, the size is there, the strength is there, the mobility is there. He’s running a system that just produced the number two quarterback in the draft. So there are a lot of things there, that you start to check those boxes. But I would say the Nebraska game was probably the first one that I watched. I know I watched him play against Air Force, Colorado State, San Diego State and then obviously the bowl game against BYU.
BF: Is your process for making mock drafts what you think should happen or what you think will happen?
MM: It’s more of an educated guess of what I think will happen or what I’m hearing will happen. Not so much what I would do. I don’t particularly love any of the quarterbacks in this class. I don’t think anyone has separated themselves right now. I always try to preface it with that. This is what I’m hearing today, and that could all change tomorrow. It’s kind of a snapshot in time, especially when you’re doing one on, like, January 2. It’s going to be literally outdated this afternoon, because (Ohio State safety) Malik Hooker declared for the draft after saying he was going back to school. So it definitely makes things only relevant for a little while.
BF: It seems like no one is very big on this quarterback class. Is that the sense you get?
MM: Yeah, that’s definitely it. I think it will come down more to the interviews, the workouts at the combine, but there’s not a consensus. I think you could talk to five scouts and probably get a couple different answers. Some people are going to like Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, some are going to like (North Carolina’s) Mitch Trubisky, some are going to like Josh, some are going to like Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Miami’s Brad Kaaya declared tonight. Teams love his poise and football IQ. I always think with quarterbacks it’s a little bit of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What are you looking for? Are you looking for a 6-5 kid who can throw the football 80 yards? Well, you’re probably going to like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. If you want somebody who’s more of a dual threat, Deshaun Watson’s going to be right up your alley. It definitely comes down to what you’re looking for. I think Josh’s traits are good enough that he’s in a position to only move up. And it’s tough that he’s only played for a year, because there’s not as much film out there, which can be a good and bad thing. There’s not as much film to criticize, but there’s also not as much to fall in love with.
BF: It seems like most draft websites don’t even list Allen. Do you get the sense from other analysts that they’re just keeping Allen out of the equation because they assume he won’t declare this year?
MM: You know, and this is the god’s honest truth, I really don’t read anyone else’s work, because some of it’s time, but I don’t want to let Daniel Jeremiah from NFL Network influence my opinion and I don’t want to let Mike Mayock from NFL Network influence my opinion. So I couldn’t tell you, but I would guess, judging by the reaction on Twitter today when that mock draft came out, a lot of people haven’t heard his name, and I would guess that a lot of my peers in the industry are not putting his name out there because he hasn’t declared yet. I know a lot of the people who work for bigger networks, they’re asked not to include underclassmen until they declare, so that could be a big part of that reason.
BF: Outside of the film component, how do you think the NFL views a quarterback who has only played one season of Division-I football?
MM: I think it is very much an individualized thing. North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz last year had only played like a year and a half, so I think that teams are getting more and more used to the idea of drafting a quarterback who doesn’t play three or four years in college. Twenty years ago, you only drafted senior quarterbacks, and I think there’s still some older people in the league who view it that way. They only want a quarterback with 30 starts. But I kind of feel like if you watch three or four games of a quarterback, you should probably be able to tell if he has it or not. You can see if the tools are there, and the way the NFL is right now and the way the college game is, all these quarterbacks have to be developed. Unless it’s like Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston. Those guys are really rare. And when they come out, they’re first picks. So with the rest of these quarterbacks, like Marcus Mariota and Jared Goff and Wentz, they all need developed, so at that point you’re just betting on a guy’s tools, and I don’t think the film component matters as much.
BF: I’ve gotten the sense this year that Allen makes some throws that no one else in college makes. Do you get that same sense?
MM: Yeah, I feel that way. It’s the good and bad ones. Because sometimes he makes a throw and you’re just like, ‘What are you doing, man?’ But then there are other times when he puts a ball in a spot, and you’re just like, ‘Man, this kid is pretty special.’ The phrase gets overused, but he is a gunslinger, through and through. He’s like, ‘You know what? I’m going to put this ball up there, and I’m going to give my guys a chance to make plays on it.’ That’s actually one of the things I really like about him is it’s not all check-downs, it’s not all this horizontal stuff that is like, ‘Let me read a cue card and throw the ball to the sideline.’ He pushes the ball downfield. I think when I counted he had nine interceptions in the middle of the field, but at least he’s throwing to the middle of the field, which is not something that you see a lot of in college football.
BF: Do you think it would be better for him to stay in another year or does it seem like to you that he needs to develop either way so he could do that in college or in the NFL?
MM: That’s definitely true. He needs developed, and he could do that in the NFL or he could do it at Wyoming. I think the thing you have to take into consideration is, OK, what if you get hurt next year? Because that’s a very real thing right now that players have to be worried about. And then you also have to think about, ‘What does next year look like at my position?’ So next year, you have to deal with UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Southern California’s Sam Darnold, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Washington’s Jake Browning. There are already six, seven, eight quarterbacks that we’re talking about for next year. Whereas this year, like we talked about, there’s no clear-cut guy. I think that’s the thing you run into. Do you throw your name into the hat a year early in a weak class or do you try to wait and develop at Wyoming and gain experience and get more film but there’s the chance that he might not play as well, he might get hurt, and you’re automatically competing against better quarterbacks. So I think that’s probably what he’s (going through now). He probably knows. ‘I’m not ready for the NFL, but I’m going to have to develop anyway, so why not speed up (the process)? Let’s do it right now and get paid for it and not get my collarbone shattered for free.’ I think that smart kids are starting to make these business decisions, and that’s probably what he’s doing right now.
BF: How much do you think the fact that Wyoming’s staff recruited Wentz helps Allen’s status?
MM: All year, people have talked about, ‘Oh, we’ve got to find the next Carson Wentz. Who’s the next Carson Wentz?’ Then you have another small-school kid with a big arm, mobility, a limited starter. The NFL’s a copycat league, and if you’ve got another kid who looks pretty similar to one who’s doing well, it’s easy to pull the trigger again. I definitely think Carson will help, whether it’s Josh or the Montana quarterback, whomever it is. These Mountain West quarterbacks are probably going to get a little more hype than they normally would have.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.