Step-by-step, how the Bills knew Allen was right for them

July 19, 2018 - 6:58 am
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Throughout the entire pre-draft process, Josh Allen was a lightning rod of a polarizing prospect. People who liked him immediately pointed to his incredibly strong arm. They brought up his athleticism, especially for a 6’ 5”, 225-pound quarterback. They mention the lack of talent around him at Wyoming and how well he played when he was surrounded by much better talent at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, at the end of January.

Allen’s critics get right to his completion percentage and point to it as an indictment of accuracy issues. They bring up the lack of talent at Wyoming, as well, but use that to cite that he also played in the Mountain West Conference and didn’t face a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball, ether.

So, what did the Buffalo Bills see in Allen that ultimately led general manager Brandon Beane to trade up and select him with the No. 7 overall pick?

It all started with reviewing his sophomore season tape even before last season started, said Beane. Then, they went from there. And there was so much more than just the physical attributes that jump off the TV screen that everyone can see.

“We saw on tape, last August spent a lot of time, [assistant general manager] Joe Schoen and myself, watching these guys playing the previous year, so that would have been his 2016 tape,” Beane said. “A lot of quarterbacks, more than just the four [who were being most thought of as first round picks], because at that point you’re still trying to figure out who has what skill set. The arm strength that you guys have seen here, that stands out. A lot of times it’s hard to tell that true arm strength on tape, but you can tell. 

“The next step was watching him through the year, and then going to see him play live. The great thing about seeing a guy play live at quarterback is yes, I can see all the stuff that I can watch on film, but I can see all the stuff in pre-game, how’s he interacting with his guys. When they’re going through stretch lines, is he patting them on the butt and getting them going? When they go three-and-out two series’ in a row, what’s he doing? When he comes off, who’s he talking to? Is he talking to one guy, is he screaming at people, is he a mute? What’s his leadership like? It’s such an important part of playing that position, because we all know you’re going to have those days or weeks when you lose three in a row.  How’s he going to respond? Can he handle adversity?”

Beane and his staff liked what they saw from Allen from all those standpoints. But they wanted reaffirmation of what they saw and to actually meet him and get to know him.

They had that chance in Mobile.
 
“Then the next step,” Beane said, “he was able to get into the Senior Bowl even though he was an underclassman by graduating, and we got to spend time. That was the first time I got to sit down with him and that was the first time Sean [McDermott] got to see him throw live. We spent like 30 minutes with him and some other guys there and we really found out how smart he was. He was nervous, you could see his nervousness the first time he met with us. I didn’t think he was his true self from a personality standpoint.[Offensive coordinator Brian] Daboll was killing him with questions and you saw a guy that was really smart. Then go to the combine and we didn’t spend any time with him there, but we talk our trip to Laramie. When we left Laramie, we felt really good about Josh.”

But Beane, McDermott, and Daboll feeling good about Allen didn’t change his completion percentage. It didn’t cause his harshest critics to suddenly like him. 56.2-percent overall over two years as a starter. 56.3 his junior year before declaring for the draft. It also didn’t suddenly change the completion he faced to be able to explain it away a lot easier.

How did the Bills brass view those concerns and still decide Allen was Their Man? In this day and age of instant video and in-depth stats right at your fingertips, they went back to the basics. Tracking every throw with their own pencil-to-paper looking at exactly what’s going on with and around him.

“Because what we did was, first of all, look at every throw multiple times,” Beane said. “What were his options here? OK, go back, what would Baker Mayfield have done here? What would Sam Darnold have done? What would Mason Rudolph, any quarterback that was in this thing, how would they have handled it, because they’re all playing at different skill sets, they’re all playing in different offenses. He had no gimme throws. There’s no, basically like hand-offs, the bubbles and all that stuff. It was all a traditional pro-style, throwing the ball vertically, and you basically have to do your own stats. How many times did he bail out of there and throw it away, which is an incompletion? How many times did he have to do that vs. this guy and vs. that guy? And you also looked at what’s going on when he’s missing, when he should have made the play, what’s going on? And to us, it was pretty clear it’s when his feet were not right. The most positive thing I saw, when he was at the Senior Bowl, his feet were in a much better position that week, he was much more accurate, not only during the week, but even in the game. The great thing about the game – I know his agents were all wanting him to play a series or two and get out because everyone is fearing injury – and he was like, ‘No, I’m coming back in the second half.’ His agent was probably like, ‘why?’ and he came back and led them on two different touchdown drives.”


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