Monday Musings: March 20

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

Following are my Monday thoughts after completing Mountain West film work and why I think Josh Allen could’ve been the first signal caller selected in this year’s draft.

I thought Jalen Robinette looked good during Shrine Game and Senior Bowl practices in January, but on film he’s very unimpressive. Robinette is a tall, imposing target that doesn’t get too many chances to catch the ball in the option attack employed by Air Force.

Yet even when the pass is thrown in his direction, Robinette did not always come away with the reception. On film he did a lot of standing around and losing out for contested or tough receptions. His size and yards per catch average are impressive.

Tanner Vallejo wasn’t the most athletic linebacker at the combine, but on film the Boise State defender showed great instincts and a sixth sense as to how plays would unfold. He was also very efficient and took great angles to the action. I don’t know if he’s a starter at the next level, but Vallejo will play on Sundays.

BSU running back Jeremy McNichols tested much better than expected at the combine, and he’s going to be a very good rotational back at the next level. He’s a multi-cut ball carrier with the quickness and footwork to create yardage and is also a terrific pass catcher out of the backfield. McNichols will likely be selected on the final day of the draft and develop into a productive third-down back.

There wasn’t too much that impressed me at Colorado State, but keep an eye on offensive tackle Nick Callender.

He posssesses nice size and solid footwork in pass protection. Callender needs to improve his strength and learn to finish blocks, but at the very least I see him making a practice squad this fall.

For the life of me I cannot understand why New Mexico offensive lineman Reno Henderson doesn’t receive move love in the scouting community.  Lining up at left tackle for the Lobos, Henderson is an explosive blocker effective at the line of scrimmage or on the second level.  I graded Henderson the past two seasons and believe he’s a terrific developmental prospect as a zone blocking guard.

Damontae Kazee is going to be a solid nickel back on Sundays.

I loved his ball skills, toughness and instincts and he also tested well at the combine. What impresses me is the scheme versatility he has, as I believe Kazee can line up in man or zone coverage and play backed off the line of scrimmage.

Off the San Jose State film, I came away impressed with defensive end/outside linebacker Isaiah Irving, who had a career campaign last season.

Irving is an intense and explosive pass rusher who can bend off the edge with speed and is relentless chasing down the quarterback or ball handlers. He was effective out of a three-point stance as well as standing over tackle. Irving has size deficiencies and must impress on special teams this summer, yet I could see someone taking a liking to him as a designated pass rusher.

UNLV safety Troy Hawthorne was not graded by scouts entering the season, but he stands out on film. Hawthorne looks like a missile the way he streaks to the plays and lays it on the line defending the run. He’s a little one-dimensional as a downhill, run-defending safety, but if he does well on special teams Hawthorne will have a chance at a roster spot.

Neither tight end Jacob Hollister of Wyoming nor receiver Tanner Gentry were invited to the combine, although Cowboys running back Brian Hill and offensive guard/center Chase Roullier were. Despite this I think the pair will make a next-level roster in one form or another, whether it be an active roster or practice squad.

Gentry is a sure-handed wideout who could line up as a fifth receiver on Sundays. Hollister is incredibly athletic but needs to improve his blocking.

Looking Ahead

Sam Darnold has already been anointed the No. 1 pick of the 2018 draft and the next franchise signal caller.

New York Jets fans are already starting a “Suck for Sam” campaign, hoping the team tanks in 2017 in order to have the chance of acquiring Darnold in a little more than a year. This represents a foolish strategy in my opinion.

But if Darnold is the prized pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen is not far behind.

I listed Allen as a Week 12 Riser back last December and mentioned that while I graded the redshirt sophomore as a second-round choice, I “unflinchingly believe he offers first-round potential down the road.”

After breaking down the Wyoming film this weekend, I firmly believe Allen would’ve competed to be the first signal caller off the board had he entered next month’s draft.

The size, release, arm strength and athleticism to make plays with his legs or arm is a more complete package than any signal caller I presently grade for the 2017 draft.

Some of the passes Allen made were just jaw-dropping. He consistently delivered the ball accurately through the tight spots with speed. Many of his 30- and 40-yard deep outs were right on the money. His poise, patience, accuracy and ability to find the open wide out were beyond impressive. He has big hands and had no problem gripping the ball in the cold of Wyoming. Part of the problem I saw was the lack of vertical speed from the Wyoming receivers, who could not run to Allen’s deep throws.

He was one of those prospects who was a joy to break down on film, but in the end I’m glad he returned to Wyoming for another season.

I thought Allen struggled down the home stretch, and the learning curve from being a one-year starter at Wyoming to an NFL first round pick would’ve been incredibly steep. Allen is losing his top three pass catchers from last season as well as Brian Hill, his top running back, and in my opinion that affords him a great opportunity.

So while some Jet fans hope their team “sucks for Sam,” I say don’t fret it-- the franchise would be just as well off by making Josh a Jet.