• The Wyoming quarterback struggled mightily while staring down pass rushers in college and will need time to adjust in the NFL. One team might be in the best position to give it to him
  • Mailbag topics include: player safety across sports, the cheerleading debate, why time is right for Denver to take a quarterback and much more
By Peter King
April 18, 2018

As has been well documented, in the latest instance by Sean Payton in my Monday column, this is a potentially rich but certainly flawed group of quarterbacks in the first round this year. Let’s include Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph as well, because he could go late in the first round to a quarterback-needy team (New England? New Orleans? Jacksonville?) that could view Rudolph as too reliable to last far into round two.

It’s been reported far and wide that Josh Allen of Wyoming could be the first overall pick, to Cleveland. The Browns like him. With ex-Bill Tyrod Taylor in the house, they seem set on whoever they draft having 2018 as an NFL redshirt year, which is probably the smart way to go for a franchise that has rushed too many passers, from Tim Couch to DeShone Kizer, into action. Allen, it would seem, would desperately need that redshirt year.

When NFL teams have scouted Allen, they’ve noticed how Allen seemed to be under pressure far more than any of the other five first-round candidates. And they’ve noticed how poorly he responded to that pressure. It’s not just the 56.3 career completion percentage that bothers teams; it’s how he has responded to pressure. And, as one official from a quarterback-needy team told me, how difficult it was to scout him because he had so many free rushers coming at him consistently.

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So I asked analytics service Pro Football Focus, which also studies college players in preparation for the draft, to do a workup on whether Allen indeed was pressured significantly more than the other quarterbacks in the draft, and how he performed under pressure. The answers were rather startling.

Allen under pressure: Of the 47 draft-eligible quarterbacks with 175 or more dropbacks in 2017, PFF found that Allen was the fifth-most-pressured quarterback, at 41 percent of his pass drops. Of the other top prospects, Lamar Jackson was pressured 36 percent of the time, Sam Darnold 31 percent, Josh Rosen 29 percent, Baker Mayfield 28 percent and Rudolph 23 percent. Clearly, Allen’s performance should have been affected by pressure more than the other quarterbacks.

Allen’s performance under pressure: not good. According to Pro Football Focus numbers, you can see Allen struggles against pressure. Look at Allen versus the field in NCAA passer rating (more liberal than the NFL rating, but for comparison sake, I’m using the NCAA standard) to see the comparison:

Allen is a dedicated guy scouts and coaches and GMs have grown to love in the pre-draft process. A California farm kid who grew up working the land before he ever had a thought of being a big-time quarterback, he knows the value of hard work. There are some scouts and coaches who look at Allen and see Ben Roethlisberger, a tree trunk of a guy with a big arm and athletic skills. All that is good.

But there’s the reality of Allen’s rawness too. These numbers show it. He has difficulty taking the snap, knowing his alternatives depending on the rush he faces, and executing successfully. That’s not going to get fixed in one training camp. Whoever picks Allen, he’s going to need a strong, unwavering, patient plan to get him ready for opening day 2019. He might progress faster than that, but let’s say Cleveland picks him. The Browns aren’t winning the Super Bowl this year. Isn’t it in their best interests to tutor Allen with smart football people, to give him consistent chances in practices through the season? Training. Coaching. Learning. A few quarterbacks in our lifetime—David Carr most notably—have left football before their time because they played too much too soon. Let Allen’s college numbers at Wyoming, and football history, be a lesson to the team that chooses him to be its quarterback of the future.

Now for your email:

I have never been a fan of all the "unwritten" rules of baseball, and the ones I like least are those on intentionally throwing at a player. How can we call for rule changes in the NFL for player safety and just turn a blind eye to someone throwing a ball 90 MPH at a player intentionally? Will it take a player getting seriously injured or killed for the MLB to take action? I believe that a pitcher should be tossed for the game and suspended for a number of future games if they intentionally throw at a player. Also, if a player spikes another player intentionally, the same punishment should happen to them. ​
—Gary T., Monroe, Ga.

I get the anger, and I get the concern over purposely trying to hurt someone. But it seems pretty hard to police. You’re in the third inning of a Baltimore-Seattle game, and Robinson Cano slides into second and catches Manny Machado with a spike in the calf, and there’s no history between them, and he gets thrown out and suspended for two games? Seems excessive to me.

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So your suggestion for dealing with a problem affecting cheerleaders is to get rid of them entirely? This is the epitome of blaming the victim. Is it also your opinion that players who complain about their contracts should be cut? Should fans who boo be removed from the stadiums? If a front office employee is subjected to the same mistreatment, should she be fired? After all, if they are not there to be mistreated, how can any mistreatment occur?
—Eric B.

Does a front-office employee dress in a microscopic costume? And do many of the people this front-office employee interacts with drink heavily during work? I am not blaming the victim. I am blaming the people who put a system in place that is fraught with potential problems, and not putting enough security around them or protections in place to avoid gross or illegal behavior.

I agree with your sentiment that cheerleaders do not make a difference in the experience for most fans. However, I do think they impact the experience of young girls. When I bring my daughter (age 6) to a Cleveland Cavaliers game, she always points out the cheerleaders and watches them intently. When we go to Browns games she also looks for the cheerleaders to no avail and is disappointed. (The Browns are one of the six NFL teams without cheerleaders.) Although cheerleaders may not impact the adult experience, they may help younger fans make a connection to the game. The NFL may need this connection moving forward, particularly for young women.​
—Seth, Cleveland

It’s a good point, and I understand. I am not sure young women would be more drawn to football because of cheerleaders, but I don’t know that.

I'm a big fan of your column and your writing. I am wondering about the teams who will need a quarterback in the next couple of years, but not necessarily in this draft (Giants, Broncos, etc.). Are they already looking at the QB crop in the 2019 or 2020 draft classes to help them decide whether to reach now, or trade up this year? If there's an Andrew Luck on the horizon, or two Carson Wentzes coming up, might that help them decide to wait? I realize that there are lots of variables, but I'm wondering whether the quality of the next couple of classes is one of those variables.​
—Jim P.

Jim, there’s no questions teams with a need know what the projected draft class is for quarterbacks in 2019. But let’s say you’re the Broncos, picking fifth, this year, and you think you need a long-term quarterback. It’s hard to let 2019 factor into your decision very much because history says the Broncos will be significantly better in 2018 than they were last year. If that’s the case, it’s tough to forecast what quarterback might be available with the 24th or some low first-round pick next year.

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Thanks for highlighting a void that has stood out to me for several years—Mike Mayock not having an analyst job. My football-watching friends and I regularly banter about our favorite play-by-play guys and analysts. As a Chargers fan, I’m partial to Dan Fouts, but I know he’s not the best. Most of my friends and myself love Cris Collinsworth and the consensus is Tony Romo was so refreshing last season; but my favorite has always been the sampling we had of Mike Mayock from the Thursday night games a few seasons ago. It has always puzzled me that he doesn’t have a regular gig. Obviously, his draft insight is brilliant but someone needs to wake up and look at his tape. Mike Mayock is a top-shelf analyst.​
—Rob M.

Thanks for writing, Rob. I love listening to Mayock talk about everything football. My favorite moments during the combine are the four-to-five-minute Mayock riffs about every team in the NFL, and where they stand and what they need and who they should be interested in from this draft. He’s just a great listen, and I wish he had an analyst’s gig.

I have to say I was not really surprised but certainly dismayed to read your conversations with Reuben Foster and Sean Payton about the Saints' decision to pass on him in the draft. Payton said he routinely talks to prospects' girlfriends to determine if they're going to help keep their boyfriends out of trouble. How is it her responsibility to keep grown men out of legal trouble? Particularly when that trouble relates to intimate partner violence. It's the victim's job to keep the abuser out of trouble? The not so subtle message to the abused is to keep quiet and do everything possible to help keep a player on the field. Where is the concern for her safety? The NFL may believe it is doing better around issues of intimate partner violence, but little will change while coaches and those in the draft room maintain such attitudes towards women and possess so little understanding of the power dynamics at play in abusive relationships.
—Tara, Columbia, Mo.

Tara, I believe what Payton was talking about was making the wife/girlfriend/fiancé understand that the team would be making a large investment in this player, and he wanted to make sure this player had a good support system behind him. I understand the raised eyebrows about teams talking to significant others, but wouldn’t you want to do your homework and make the people close to someone you’re about to sign for millions of dollars understand there’s a lot at stake here?

“Hey. Today is Monday. What did King write this week?” Thanks for making this possible.​
—Dave B., Lenexa, Kan.

Dave, that means so much to me. I mean that sincerely. Thank you. What really makes it possible is you and so many others reading and responding. I am not doing this job if I’m writing in a vacuum. Thanks again.

I love football, but I find it hilarious to listen to coaches explain the value of playing football. There is nothing to be gained from playing football that can't be gained from playing any other sport that is way safer. I gained all those things by serving in the U.S. Army. I am a Philadelphia sports fan and I think there are two shining examples of pro coaches who get it and are primed to be examples of the future of coaching, namely Doug Pederson and Brett Brown. They communicate and are both smart enough and secure with themselves enough to allow their players to be themselves. Coaches who are that my-way-or-the-highway type are dinosaurs.

This seems like two points. I agree with you about the value of football; it certainly is valuable, but you can also get the football lessons from other sports and other activities. I think the fear is that the elimination of football would mean that a percentage of those who play football might choose to play nothing else, and they wouldn’t get the lessons from sitting on the couch playing video games—not to mention that they wouldn’t get the exercise you get for four months (or more) per year preparing for football games. Regarding the coaches, I don’t know Brown, but I do know Pederson, and he is certainly the smart and empowering type. Players love playing for him. Thanks for your email.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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