INDIANAPOLIS — Players participating in the NFL Scouting Combine vie for the chance to one day play in front of thousands of cheering fans. But the Combine drills themselves take place in a quiet setting.
Lucas Oil Stadium was almost library-like Saturday as the first group of quarterbacks and receivers paired up for drills. The groans of receivers who let passes fall through their fingers were easily heard, and the congratulatory claps of the two positions groups, or lack thereof, gave an instant assessment of each performance.
There was one collective noise, though, that the team executives and limited media members in attendance did let slip. It was a laugh of disbelief, and it landed just after Josh Allen’s pass did, more than 60 yards downfield from where he launched it, into the hands of an in-stride receiver.
It might not have revealed anything new about Allen, whose arm strength is well-documented, but it was an impressive throw nonetheless. Many of the passes in that segment reached their targets around midfield.
Allen, who chose to forgo his final season at Wyoming for the NFL Draft, is expected by many to be selected higher than any Wyoming player has ever been drafted. The combination of his success as a redshirt sophomore in 2016 and his uncommon physical traits catapulted him to a national platform that few Cowboys, if ever, have reached.
Those traits were on display at this weekend’s Combine, the landing ground for elite draft hopefuls attempting to further improve their standing. Allen’s nearly 6-foot-5 height made him stand out among the quarterbacks — though his sleeveless shirt and slight farmer’s tan, a look consistent with his rural upbringing, didn’t hurt.
And his athleticism was as good as advertised in his tests Saturday. Allen led all quarterbacks in the broad jump (9 feet 11 inches) and vertical jump (33.5 inches). He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds, third among quarterbacks, though Jackson didn’t run. His three-cone drill time of 6.90 seconds trailed only South Florida’s Quinton Flowers among quarterbacks. He tied for eighth among quarterbacks in the 20-yard shuttle (4.4 seconds).
“We prepared well for it, training with Ryan Flaherty, making sure that we were doing the right drills,” Allen said to NFL Network afterward. “Our quarterback coach Jordan Palmer had us doing the right things. So when we got out here, it was kind of a muscle memory type deal.”
But the larger questions surrounding Allen pertain to his accuracy. His impressive long ball came on the seventh of 10 passing drills the quarterbacks went through. None of the quarterbacks were flawless in the group, and Allen had his misses, though there were passers who had more. As with his time at Wyoming, Allen’s inaccuracies tended to come in the form of overthrows, including one significant airmail on a slant route. However, he did have a pass on a crossing route that was slightly behind Oklahoma State’s Marcell Ateman, who fell over after making the catch.
But overall, Allen connected with his targets. His put the ball where it needed to be on short sideline throws, out routes, comeback routes and post corner routes. He overthrew his first target on a 40-yard deep pass, but appeared to step into his next two throws, perhaps an indication of the footwork he said he has worked on while training in Southern California.
“It went well,” Allen said. “This is kind of something that I’ve always dreamt of as a kid is being able to come here. Obviously, we had some crowd noise in the building today, obviously throwing in front of all the GMs and scouts in the league. It was a really cool feel. Kind of expected and what I dreamt of.”
Allen’s most high-profile competition in the first group was Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. Southern California’s Sam Darnold, who some expect to be the No. 1 quarterback taken, was also in the group but chose not to throw at the Combine. Other quarterbacks in the group included Flowers, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, Virginia’s Kurt Benkert, Washington State’s Luke Falk, Memphis’ Riley Ferguson and Arkansas’ Austin Allen. The second quarterback group included Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and UCLA’s Josh Rosen, another potential top pick.
Allen will train in California for another week and a half before returning to Laramie to prepare for Wyoming’s Pro Day on March 23. A little over a month later, the NFL Draft begins. If Allen continues to make noise before then, he could also end up making history.