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Is Josh Allen worth the number one overall pick?

Using 4 plays to determine if Josh Allen is worthy of the number one overall pick

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Kentucky vs Penn State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, Lance Zierlein’s mock caused some ruckus on this website. Zierlien had the Cardinals taking Josh Allen number one overall. For many, that seemed like quite the stretch. Mainly because if you want Allen you can trade down a couple spots and get him. More than likely, anyways. Mock drafts are purely for entertainment and to raise discussion. Saying “that’ll never happen” isn’t fair because we see head scratching picks every year. To get a better idea of what Allen brings to the table, I checked him out. Here are five plays from him.


One thing is obvious when you watch Allen. He can go. This is the very first play against Mississippi State:

That’s at :41 seconds, by the way. That’s an obvious hold. Allen may not have gotten to the quarterback, but a hold is the next best thing after a sack. Allen puts so much pressure on the offensive tackle when he is decisive like he was above. What you like to see about this play is that with his right hand he is naturally “chopping” to keep himself clean in the event that the tackle gets a hand on him. Just based on this play alone, there’s something to work with here.

Where’s the counter

With using one play, the natural reaction is to say “it’s one play anyone can do that.” I’m showing habits. I’m using one example, whether it’s extreme or not, to show you what has shown up in games consistently. From my point of view, at least. When Allen faced skilled offensive tackles that were ready for his speed, the lack of counter moves were troublesome. Damn near nonexistent. Let’s walk through this inside counter below:

Allen is rushing off of the right side against a player that is also found in the first round of mock drafts. For a player that relies on speed, Allen sure does take awhile to commit to whatever move he is trying to use. It’s like the right tackle saw this move coming. Allen can do a better job at both setting up his moves and disguising them. Whether it’s using the speed to the outside to counter back inside, or some sort of combination working off of his obvious strength, his quickness.

Quicker than fast?

Speaking of quickness, Allen will beat you to the punch. When he is in tight spaces, he’s going to beat you to the spot. The more I watched of him the more Allen struck me as an off the ball linebacker that will see ball get ball. There are certain instances where him playing on the line of scrimmage has its obvious advantages, like below:

Allen is lined up to the right side head up on the tight end. The result of the play doesn’t matter here. That’s not what we’re focused on. Just watch how easily he beats the tight end. That’s impressive. A couple plays later he blew right pasts the left tackle as well. Pure quickness and speed. Allen will come flying off of the edge and move the quarterback off of his spot. That’s what you want. That’s his game. He’s very good at it, too.

Weight room, kid

There are serious problems at the point of attack when Allen is consistently on the line. Kentucky asked him to set the edge, and that was obviously not his strength. So this point may end up being moot. If Allen is indeed going to consistently play on the line of scrimmage though, he is going to have to be much more stout than he was in 2018. If lineman or tight ends got their hands on him, that was all she wrote.

Double teams? No match. On this play, and quite a few others, the result does matter. Allen was moved off of his spot too easily when teams ran at him.

The problem with that is it’s hard to hide that in the NFL. If you put him on the weak-side of the formation, offenses will just motion to his side, and run it right at him. That’s hard to keep on the field if you are not a dynamite pass-rusher. We know he can fly off the edge. That alone will be worth a couple sacks next year and that is valuable. We also know there isn’t much of a counter. Without that or a speed to power move, it limits Allen’s ceiling as well as how much he can contribute right away.

Is Allen worthy of the top pick?

Allen has plenty of value. Let me make that clear. Here’s why: Next year Allen may have an entire game go by where he doesn’t make a play. Then on third and seven in the fourth quarter he beats your left tackle to the edge for a sack and forces a punt. The threat of being able to get your defense off of the field on any snap matters.

There are too many inconsistencies in Allen’s game for me to say he’s worthy of a top pick. The dog in him is inconsistent. Perhaps that’s him being unsure of what he’s doing. Whether that be dropping into coverage, or looping around on a stunt. Even in the third play above. You want him to want to finish that. Not just be fine with beating his man. There were too many plays where I felt like Allen didn’t finish the play. Can’t co-sign that.

Speaking of coverage, that gets into the positional value talk. I’d rather work outside downtown Phoenix during the summer than invest in an off the ball linebacker in the top five. No way. Allen himself looked lost in coverage. Against Mississippi State he had a really nice play where he passed off one receiver to another zone and hit another receiver coming his way to break up the pass. But for every time that happened there are 10 plays of him drifting into the abyss while someone is open five yards in front of him. He has the athleticism to play man, but will he be able to hang with the tight ends that have nuance to their routes?

It’s always enticing when there are more questions than answers. That’s also how you end up getting fired. Allen put up monster numbers last year for Kentucky. He was uber productive. When you dig a little deeper, you see that behind the athlete there is a football player that has a long ways to go if he wants to live up to being a top five selection. Allen doesn’t play to his size. He’s going to get stronger. He also has to. If you’re not going to win technically with your hands, you have to generate some sort of power. With that lacking, as well as the arsenal of pass-rush moves, I’m out on Allen early.