Is Carson Wentz an Accurate NFL Comp for Josh Allen?
Comparing Craig Bohl’s only first-round draft pick vs. his next potential one.
Who was the better college prospect?
The similarities between Philadelphia Eagles and former North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz and Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen are quite extensive. Both were recruited by Wyoming coach Craig Bowl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen. Both played at relatively small schools. Both quarterbacks are mobile and share 6’5” 235 lb. frames. This list could go on and on.
Against FBS Teams
Neither played particularly well against FBS Power 5 competition. Wentz went 18-28 for 204 yards in a 34-14 win against a terrible Iowa State team in his lone game against Power 5 opposition. Allen went 16 for 32 for 189 yards with 1 TD and 5 INT’s against Nebraska, a team that began the season 7-0 and was ranked in the top 10 for four weeks of season.
He then followed it up next season going 23-40 for 174 yards and two INT’s in a 24-3 loss at Iowa, a team that would go on to beat Ohio State 55-24, and finished with an awful 9-24 for 64 yards and 1 INT outing against Oregon. Neither quarterback was outstanding in their limited appearances against Power 5 schools. Wentz made fewer mistakes and got the win, while Allen had more highlights but many more mistakes.
Allen and Wentz Differences
The differences between the two are harder to find but there are there. Allen’s completion percentage was about seven points lower than Wentz. Wentz played lower competition with NDSU, his team was essentially the Crimson Tide of FCS, while Allen started for a basement dwelling MW school.
Chris Burke from The Atlantic interviewed Brent Vigen (SoundCloud link) to get his thoughts on Allen as the NFL Draft looms. One difference Vigen noted was, “One of the things that’s really allowed Carson to have very quick success is he’s an extremely cerebral young man, he’s consumed by it and you can see that as a young player. And I think that’s where Josh has some proving to do, but like I said before he’s a very smart football player, I think he gets how to study the game.”
I don’t think this is a knock-on Allen’s actual football IQ but more about in-game decision making. Allen approaches the game with more of the Brett Favre approach where he’s going to sling it and see what happens, the reward always outweighs the risk. Wentz is more calculating like a Peyton Manning and takes fewer risks. Unless you’re Brett Favre, most coaches will cringe at Allen’s gunslinger attitude. Allen’s belief that he can throw it anywhere at anytime makes him look really bad at times.
Were the supporting casts and schedule comparable?
A lot of Allen detractors have recently been commenting on how his supporting cast has been a cop-out to his lack of success. For some perspective, look at the 2015 season. One game before Josh Allen’s first career start and subsequent season ending collarbone injury, Wyoming hosted North Dakota out of the FCS. North Dakota cruised to a 24-13 win in Laramie. Wyoming looked outmatched against an average FCS foe.
Allen would take over as the starter in the next game for Wyoming against Eastern Michigan. He quickly led the Pokes for a touchdown on the opening drive. On his second drive, he was driving the team down the field again but suffered a hit that resulted in a fractured collarbone. He exited the game with the score tied 7-7. In his limited time, he went 3-4 for 32 yards and 40 rushing yards on three carries. Wyoming would go on to lose that game to Eastern Michigan 48-29 and finish the season at 2-10 while Allen’s season finished with a medical redshirt.
Two weeks after winning in Laramie, North Dakota got their shot at then senior Carson Wentz and the defending champion NDSU Bison. The Bison blew out North Dakota 34-9 in Fargo. NDSU would recover from losses to Montana and South Dakota to win their 5th consecutive national championship. Although Wentz played in the title game, NDSU made it to the final without him as he missed 8 weeks to a wrist injury.
How would Wentz have fared on those Wyoming teams devoid of talent facing a much more challenging schedule than he saw at NDSU?
How would Allen have fared on a team coming off four national titles and weaker competition than that of which he faced while at Wyoming?
The uncertainty is maddening for the “experts”
Throughout the 2018 NFL Draft process, Allen will be tied to Wentz as their stories are so similar. While they have few differences, those differences are very significant. At the end of the day, predicting success in the NFL is more of a guess than a science. The experts are paid to make projections, but Allen does not come from a prototypical situation. The incredible range of projections from first overall to third round selection prove that no one really knows how he projects into the NFL.
As Vigen stated in his interview with The Athletic, “I do think a team that does utilize the quarterback’s athleticism, does value getting the quarterback out of pocket, I think that’s going to bode well for him. At the same time, I do think he can function in an offense that’s more about getting the ball out of a kid’s hand quick. I think he’s pretty versatile there.
“Like any young quarterback, a program that’s going to be willing to grow and move and shake with him a little bit. I look at Carson Wentz — year one to year two, there obviously were some really great highlights in year one but they were able to work through some things and really grow with him. Year two has been a tremendous success.”
Whether or not Allen succeeds in the NFL will be determined by a variety of factors that can not be predicted based upon how he performed in college. Allen undoubtedly has the skills to be successful, the question is whether he will receive the gift of being placed in an environment that will bring out his full potential. People can guess but no one has the answer.