By Alex Kurpeski
It seems as though each season the NFL is introduced to a brand new phenom at the quarterback position, one who takes their game to an entirely unexpected level, thrashing opposing defenses with a flurry of never before seen stylistic tweaks. In 2017 it was Deshaun Watson, who as a rookie looked like he may very well shatter the league record for touchdown passes before ultimately injuring his knee off screen. The following season it was Watson’s 2017 draft classmate Patrick Mahomes who wowed us with his backyard football style gunslinging, as he and the Kansas City Chiefs torched every single defense they came across. The 2019 season saw the reemergence of the dual-threat, as Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson absolutely killed defenders (and fantasy owners who faced him) with his running ability and improved passing technique. With a new breakout expected every season now, it’s never too early to start projecting candidates to make the leap in 2020. In the first iteration of this brand new series titled “The Case For”, we will discuss Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen, more specifically detailing his strong case to win the league’s MVP award next season.
When Allen first popped onto the NFL radar, he was an extremely raw prospect at the University of Wyoming, where he displayed all the necessary tools to be an elite NFL QB while simultaneously struggling with basic mechanical issues. In just over two years as a starter for the Cowboys, Allen completed just 56.2% of his passes, a notable percentage considering the fact that the only collegiate QB with a career completion percentage below 60% to improve that mark at the pro level was Brett Favre, who served as an outlier among a sea of washouts. While Allen’s unfathomable arm strength and athleticism ultimately led to his selection in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft by Buffalo.
Allen’s first season with the Bills was quite imperfect, as he threw for just 10 touchdowns in 11 starts, while also turning the ball over 20 times (8 fumbles and 12 interceptions). Thankfully, Allen discovered a very important aspect of his game in the second half of 2018, rushing for 476 of his 631 rushing yards in the final five games of the season, punching in 5 touchdowns on the ground. Allen’s dual-threat dominance carried over into 2019, when he tallied 510 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground for the playoff-bound Bills. With huge passing improvements across the board (completion rate rose from 52.8% to 58.8%, TD:INT ratio rose to 20:9, and his total passing yardage rose by over 1,000 total yards) Allen sparked an offensive rejuvenation in Buffalo, with a little bit of help from some new faces in the receiving core (cast-offs Cole Beasley and John Brown were extremely solid additions to the receiver group while rookie TE Dawson Knox looked like a future star). With major improvements in 2019, we here at 3cosports are convinced that 2020 will be even kinder to Josh Allen.
The Cam Newton Trajectory
While Allen is the shiniest juggernaut to grace the QB position, one player who he has drawn a lot of parallels to is Panthers’ QB Cam Newton. Like Allen, Newton was an extremely raw passer who took the JUCO route in order to find himself at a division one school. Both passers have struggled with their accuracy in their careers, with Allen actually eclipsing Newton’s year-two numbers for completion percentage (58.2% compared to Newton’s 57.7%) and total touchdowns (29 to Newton’s 27). We all remember how “Super Cam” took the league by storm in his first few seasons, utterly dominating defenses with his size, speed, and raw arm talent. Newton’s best season came in 2015, when he won the league’s MVP award on the strength of 45 total touchdowns and 4,473 total yards. While Newton’s breakout came in his fifth season in the league, the circumstances surrounding his breakout are eerily similar to Allen’s as we approach the 2020 season.
Allen was sneakily one of the most consistent fantasy QBs last season, with 12 games scoring 15+ points. Ahead of Newton’s 2015 breakout campaign, he put-up 15+ points in 10 contests during the 2014 season, despite missing a pair of games. One look at the talent surrounding Newton during his 2015 breakout, and it’s easy to see similarities to allen’s situation in Buffalo. With an extremely tough, physical defense to back him up, Newton was able to move the ball downfield with ease thanks to a pair of dynamic deep receivers (Philly Brown and Ted Ginn, Allen has John Brown and Robert Foster at his disposal) and some excellent short-intermediate pass-catchers (Greg Olsen and then-rookie Devin Funchess, meanwhile Allen has Cole Beasley and Dawson Knox). With a deep backfield buoyed by a steady veteran (Jonathan Stewart), Newton had a ton of success on play action and option plays, a dynamic that Allen could absolutely recreate with backs like Devin Singletary and potentially ageless wonder Frank Gore lining up alongside him.
With the unbelievable physical tools he possesses, Allen will have no issue making yet another leap in the 2020 season. With OC Brian Daboll returning to the team, Allen will have another offseason to develop in a familiar environment. Should Buffalo continue to stockpile weapons for Allen on offense, we may very well see the version of Allen that many insiders had in mind during the pre-draft process prior to the 2018 draft. While an MVP is a long-shot at this point, few players have as much room for growth as Allen does at this stage in his career.