The Josh Allen rumblings won’t go away.
And they’re picking up steam.
After months of assumption by many that USC quarterback Sam Darnold would be the choice for the Browns with the No. 1 pick, the momentum has shifted toward Allen, the Wyoming quarterback with prototypical size, a rocket arm and good athleticism.
Allen was at Browns headquarters Thursday, the last of the top quarterbacks to make his predraft visit.
“Just in talking to people around the league, I would say it really picked up in the last week,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Wednesday on a conference call. “It’s just a lot of people, not from inside the (Browns) building — I’ll stress that — but there’s just a lot of people telling me, ‘Hey, I think it’s going to be Josh Allen.’ It’s either guys that have worked with (general manager) John Dorsey or guys that are familiar with that room and that process.”
The Browns aren’t saying whether they’ve made a decision about what to do at the top of the draft, or which way they’re leaning. And the last couple of weeks before the draft, which will begin April 26, are always fertile ground for misinformation and rampant speculation.
“I think when you connect the dots with John Dorsey and his past the reason why you’re hearing some of the conversation and connection to Josh Allen is simply because John Dorsey spent a lot of his formative time in the league in Green Bay when Brett Favre was the quarterback, a big, strong-armed thrower, a guy who could really throw off platform, could make improvisational plays and really make up for a lot of things with his exceptional arm talent,” NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks said. “And then when you go back and you look at his draft history and some of the guys that he’s taken, he has a long track record of going for projection and potential over production.
“If you go back to last year, he took Patrick Mahomes over Deshaun Watson. And you look at Patrick Mahomes’ game compared to Josh Allen’s game, there are a lot of similarities, tremendous arm talent, athleticism, the ability to play off platform. It’s easy to see why John Dorsey would like that.”
Dorsey was in the personnel department for the Packers, then became GM in Kansas City, where his last major move was trading up in the first round last year to draft Texas Tech’s Mahomes — although the role of Chiefs coach Andy Reid in landing Mahomes is unknown. Brooks looked at Dorsey’s history beyond Mahomes.
“If you dig even deeper, his first pick with the Kansas City Chiefs he took Eric Fisher over Luke Joeckel,” Brooks said of the top left tackles in the 2013 draft. “Eric Fisher was a bit more of a projection coming from Central Michigan. He opted to go for athleticism and upside over a guy who was deemed to be a little more polished in Joeckel.
“So when you go and you kind of check off all the boxes in terms of projecting what the Browns may do, it appears that Josh Allen could be that pick because they’re trying to knock it out the park based on what Josh Allen could be as opposed to what he hasn’t been to this point.”
The biggest issue with Allen (6-foot-5, 237 pounds) is his 56.2 completion percentage in two years as the Wyoming starter. And when the analytics people do a deeper number crunch, he consistently ranks at the bottom of the quarterback group. He also competed against lesser competition and struggled when the Cowboys stepped up in class — one touchdown and eight interceptions in games against Iowa, Oregon and Nebraska.
The Browns passed on taking a quarterback in the top two the last two years but appear set to make the leap this year. Would Dorsey make his tenure-defining pick a project?
“I would think that Sam Darnold would be a better player for Cleveland just in terms of what I’ve seen from Sam Darnold on tape,” Brooks said. “I’ve seen him shine in big games. I’ve seen him display the “it factor” and the leadership qualities when the team is down.
“With Josh Allen, I do see the traits that you want, prototypical size, outstanding arm talent and athleticism. The one thing that I’m having a tough time getting past would be the low completion percentage and the underperformance in big games. To me, if you’re taking someone No. 1, there has to be a signature game or some moment when you feel like he’s the best player on the field, and I just haven’t seen that to date with Josh Allen.”
Dorsey was hired as general manager in December and has already overhauled the quarterback room by trading for veteran Tyrod Taylor to be the starter and signing veteran Drew Stanton to be the backup. He traded DeShone Kizer to the Packers, Cody Kessler to the Jaguars and Kevin Hogan to Washington.
Jeremiah is adamant Darnold should be the final piece of the reconstruction, but realizes he might not be.
“I’ve been on record for a long time saying I think Sam Darnold should be the pick for the Cleveland Browns,” he said. “I think he’s the right guy there. I personally think he’s the best quarterback in this class, and I think he, at 20 years old, is just scratching the surface of what he can do.
“I think the pick should be Sam Darnold, and at this point in time none of us know who it is. I just know that it’s not a slam dunk. Just talking to people around the league, that’s the sense that I get.”