QB Survivor: Meet The Traits Tribe
Why the "Josh Allen traits" mantra needs to stop or it will ruin the NFL Draft
It’s amazing how many highly-touted recruits who possess “Josh Allen traits” have almost nothing in common like Josh Allen. Like the fact that they are highly-touted recruits.
A farm boy whose grew up 40 miles outside of Fresno, California, Allen did not receive a single FBS or FCS offer coming out of Firebaugh High School. He is said to have weighed about 180 lbs at the time and similar to Eugene native Justin Herbert, he seems to have despised “showcase opportunities” for scouts and recruiters; he dreamt of playing at Fresno State and he just wanted to play ball with his friends.
But unlike Herbert and Oregon, Fresno State balked at Allen’s desire to play there.
A familial connection at nearby Reedley College got Allen a chance to continue playing football after high school, but even two after two seasons of running a high-powered offense, growing two inches and adding 30 lbs, and contacting every FBS program in the country, Josh Allen accepted his only guaranteed scholarship offer: Wyoming.
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Coming off of a 4-8 season, Wyoming was soon to name Allen the starter but a broken collarbone ended his year almost immediately after it began and the team went 2-10.
In 2016, nobody in the world was talking about “This kid at Wyoming who is going to change the NFL Draft.” A football program that nobody ever talks about and a recruit that nobody wanted either out of high school or after two years at a JuCo. Josh Allen would not be in The Traits Tribe or The Hype Tribe.
He would be the leader, the founder, and the Godfather of the modern Underdog Tribe. (Read: Meet The Underdog Tribe)
In 2016, and teaming up senior tight end Jacob Hollister, Allen went 209/373 with 28 TD, 15 INT, 8.6 Y/A, and he rushed for 523 yards with seven touchdowns.
In 2017, Allen went 152/270 with 16 TD, 6 INT, 6.9 Y/A, and he rushed for 204 yards and five touchdowns over 11 games.
What people will bring up now is that “Josh Allen had a terrible completion percentage in college!” Yes, he completed 56% of his passes both years. However, that includes going 9-of-24 against Oregon and 12-of-27 against Boise State, two programs that will out-recruit and out-class Wyoming year after year. And Allen still nearly led Wyoming to a win over Boise State.
People will also say that Allen was “this raw recruit” as if he had just begun the process of learning football, when in fact he threw 259 passes in one year at Reedley, then 649 passes at Wyoming. Allen had played in over 30 college games and had proven to be a dual threat with a powerful arm, if not for just this one thing of having a poor completion percentage, likely somewhat impacted by his surrounding talent.
By comparison, Trey Lance—the quarterback who drew the most Allen comparisons in 2021—threw 287 passes during one season at North Dakota State. He then went 15-of-30 in one showcase game for scouts in 2020.
Allen threw 15 passes in Week 1 of his rookie season and started in Week 2 for the Bills that year. He was coming off of starting in three of the previous four years.
Lance threw 30 passes the year before going to the 49ers, then 71 passes as a rookie. When Lance became San Francisco’s Week 1 starter this season, he was coming off of 388 attempts in the previous three years and only 101 passes in the previous two.
If Trey Lance starts in Week 1 of 2023, he will have thrown 132 pass attempts in the past three years and only 450 in the last five!
By the time Josh Allen was going into his breakout third year—53% completions as a rookie, 59% completions in year two—he had already thrown 781 passes at the NFL level in order to improve his accuracy.
So why are people suggesting that teams should draft quarterbacks—with EARLY FIRST ROUND PICKS—simply because “he has traits like Josh Allen” and without any regard for attributes, characteristics, and resumes anything like Allen? How could so many smart people (I say that non-facetiously) be under the impression that learning how to play the hardest position in sports can be done by anyone, as long as he’s tall enough, fast enough, stocky enough, and has a strong enough arm?
Allen didn’t just grow up big, fast, and strong. He didn’t have dozens of the top coaches in the country teaching him everything to do right and how to avoid doing anything wrong. He had the opposite of that! He was told by every major coach in the country, whether that’s a head coach, a quarterbacks coach, or a personal trainer, that he wasn’t going to be good enough. He had to go to junior college. He had to take the one offer from Wyoming. He had to figure out how to become “Josh Allen” despite there never really being a “Josh Allen” before him, and he had to do it on his own.
When someone tells me, “Hey look at this four-star recruit, he’s just like Josh Allen.”
Immediately I know: He is nothing like Josh Allen. Like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Justin Herbert, and many legendary quarterbacks before them, most of the special players needed to hear “You aren’t that good.” And they were never hearing, “Hey Rodgers, you should be like Brett Favre, so do this.”
Nobody said, “Hey Russell Wilson, you should be like Drew Brees, so become Drew Brees.”
They had to become the first Aaron Rodgers. The first Russell Wilson. And the first Josh Allen.
Between now and next year a lot of people that you trust will tell you why (PLAYER NAME) and (PLAYER NAME) are great prospects for the NFL Draft, even if their college careers sucked, because Josh Allen exists. And just like this year, when Seaside Joe was basically the only person in this realm PROMISING you that Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder were third round picks, and others were saying, “No, I’m hearing the Seahawks will trade up for Ridder in the first round,” I might be the only person willing to tell you which prospects are being overrated because of “traits.”
I do not do that to be different. I do not do that to make friends—it only seems to create more enemies. I do not do that to become more popular—it only makes me less popular.
I do it because it’s honest and so that when I tell you “Hey, I think this quarterback actually is really good AND he has superb athletic traits,” you will know that my word means something. And that I’m not doing it to be popular. I’m not doing it to make friends. And I’m not just saying it so that I’ll get retweeted by Tony Pauline.
The Traits Tribe is six quarterbacks who might have something like a “Josh Allen” physical profile, unique traits maybe similar to Malik Willis, and a few players who you might have been hearing non-stop praise for despite suboptimal college careers. It does not mean that I think or know that they can’t become successful in the NFL.
It only means…they’re not Josh Allen. But they could be the first…
Will Levis, Kentucky - The Popular Narrative
There is a not-too-distant universe where Will Levis is instead studying to become a professor at Yale (where his grandfather was a football coach) or a hot shot on Wall Street. He might have the brains to have gotten a full ride academic scholarship, if not for his gifted physical attributes and breaking school records on his high school football team. Ranked as about the 25th-best pro style recruit in 2018, Levis chose to attend Penn State.
I am not rooting against Will Levis. I have nothing against any prospect and I also think the sport is a better sport when people like Will Levis develop into great players. I WANT Will Levis to succeed.
But it is from this moment on that I start to lose grasp with all the hype for Levis that currently exists: He redshirts at Penn State in 2018, then loses a quarterback competition to Sean Clifford in 2019, and even during a losing 4-5 season in 2020, fails to get an opportunity. So he transfers to Kentucky in 2021. His OC last year is the current OC of the L.A. Rams and his top WR was a second round pick of the Giants, but Levis struggled for the entire season.
Beyond the poor accuracy and high rate of interceptions, the other thing nobody else brings up about Levis: Kentucky’s offense is boring. I don’t know where to find advanced stats on this but he must have one of the lowest Average Depth Of Targets in the country. It’s a dink-dunk offense and his higher completion rate is due to how short he throws the ball usually. Throwing beyond 10 yards often yields brutal results.
It’s important for me to keep reminding myself that I am not annoyed by Will Levis. I am annoyed by a Will Levis narrative. I watched Levis every week in 2021 and I was never impressed. Apparently neither was anyone else at the time, as there was no buzz at all about Levis during the year—and all I did everyday was search for buzz about quarterbacks. Then for some reason after the season, all anyone was talking about anymore was Will Levis and people would ask me, “What do you think of Will Levis?”
Then I would say, “Well, he’s not very good.” And instead of saying, “Oh okay, thank you for your opinion, I appreciate it and will take it into account,” the typical response would be, “What about Josh Allen?”
I do not debate people anymore. If you ask my opinion, I will give it to you and it doesn’t bother me or even cross my mind whether or not others agree with me. It’s just me taking in information about football and then sharing my thoughts on football matters, if you care to read it. I’ll also listen to criticism of my work, skepticism of my beliefs, and take those into account, but I’m not a debater. Especially not about “You don’t like a player as much as I do, let’s go back and forth for a long time about it.”
I like prospects who have played good football in college. The competition doesn’t have to be the best. The talent around doesn’t have to be good or bad. If we are talking about first round quarterbacks, then good football is a prerequisite for me. It doesn’t have to be for you!
If drafted by the right team—the Rams, for example—then Levis has the tools to become a great NFL quarterback. Imagine him being a late second round pick, reuniting with offensive coordinator Liam Coen, and spending two years behind Matthew Stafford. That’s what Levis should be looking for, I think. Going to the Seahawks, I’m not sure if that makes as much sense. The fanbase would not accept anything less than a Week 1 start, the season would probably be going worse than the current one, and then heads start to roll.
But those are just my thoughts and they apply to Levis at the beginning of QB Survivor. I would be elated to welcome a twist in the game where Levis becomes my favorite contestant by the end of QB Survivor.
Date of Birth: 6/27/1999 (draft age: 24)
Hometown: Middletown, CT
Weight: 231 lbs
Last game: 18/26, 303 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 9 rush, -10 yards (W 31-23 vs N Illinois)
Tanner McKee, Stanford - The prospect who was once right behind Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields
Slight gore warning ahead: As a high schooler, Tanner McKee once had surgery to remove a mole and two lymph nodes after he had tested positive for melanoma, the same form of cancer that had killed his grandfather.
I share this because as I’ve always said in the beginning of this game: We’re getting to know the people, not just the prospects.
McKee is built a little different than most quarterback prospects. Not just physically, but in what’s important to him. A four-star recruit in 2018, McKee was considered to be as prized of a prospect as Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields that year, two quarterbacks who’ve been tracked since middle school. McKee chose to go to Stanford, but making it to the NFL wasn’t as important to him as it was to other recruits of his status.
McKee went on a two-year mission for his LDS church and didn’t start playing college football until 2020. He threw just seven passes that year, but then started 10 games in 2021: 65% completions, 15 TD, 7 INT, and a mix of good and bad. McKee, still only a junior, has improved some of his numbers this year. He might need to get a lot better though or he will be another year behind his peers in testing the NFL Draft.
Date of Birth: 4/27/2000 (draft age: 23)
Hometown: Corona, CA
Weight: 229 lbs
Last game: 17/26, 286 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, 13 rush, -33 yards (L 40-22 to Washington)
Anthony Richardson, Florida - The Hail Mary to find the next Cam Newton
A four-star recruit in the 2020 class, Richardson serves as an even greater challenge to “the Josh Allen hypothesis” than Levis does. Though Levis struggled through a 2021 season, Richardson spent both 2020 and 2021 on the bench, most recently behind Emory Jones. His sporadic appearances last season brought far more concerns than they should have attracted temptations, but Twitter just can’t help itself.
Richardson had five interceptions on only 64 attempts. Taking over as the starter in his third season (I do believe that when you’re talking about elite prospects, we should be talking about players who started in their first two years—though this is not a hard and fast rule), Richardson may not enter the draft anymore. He has two touchdowns and five interceptions through four games, and his five rushing touchdowns do not help the argument. Florida gets a cupcake against Eastern Washington this weekend, but it is how Richardson plays against Mizzou, LSU, Georgia, and Texas A&M in the following five weeks that matters.
Date of Birth: 5/22/2001 (draft age: 22)
Hometown: Gainesville, FL
Weight: 231 lbs
Last game: 24/44, 453 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 17 rush, 62 yards, 2 TD (L 48-33 to Tennessee)
C.J. Stroud, Ohio State - Can he buck the Buckeye?
Most of you already know C.J. Stroud and it’s going to be really hard for him to exit this game early. A four-star recruit out of Los Angeles in 2020, Stroud has the traits to become the next Justin Fields or for the skeptics, the traits to become the next Justin Fields. After Bryce Young, there is a lot more debate about who will be a first round pick. The player most often above or right below Young (at least for the experts I consider to be a little more credible than most online analysts) is Stroud and it’s been that way for over a year.
As a redshirt freshman, Stroud had 44 touchdowns and six interceptions for Ohio State. The questions with Stroud will focus on his supporting cast (Chris Olave is already an NFL star, Garrett Wilson is not far behind, and Jaxson Smith-Njigba could be the first receiver drafted in 2023…although teammate Marvin Harrison, Jr. is making his case right now) and his predecessors. Stroud’s success at Ohio State is not any different than the success had by Fields, Dwayne Haskins, or J.T. Barrett.
I don’t think that Ryan Day, and before him Urban Meyer, setup their quarterbacks for NFL success. I think they set them up to win national championships. If I was a quarterback as good as C.J. Stroud and could do it all over again, I honestly think I would go somewhere else.
But Stroud is his own person and he could definitely win this game.
Date of Birth: 10/3/2001 (draft age: 21)
Hometown: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Weight: 218 lbs
Last game: 17/27, 281 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT, 0 rush (W 52-21 vs Wisconsin)
Garrett Shrader, Syracuse - The Underdog of the Prototypes
To be honest with you, I had to make another last-second change here. Like with replacing Chance Nolan with Jalon Daniels on The Underdog Tribe, I had to make an executive decision to cut Phil Jurkovec from the cast. The Boston College veteran has played so poorly this season, it will take an effort to get himself back into the draft conversation again.
Shrader on the other hand has done as much as any quarterback in raising his stock and he also has the traits.
Shrader was a four-star recruit out of North Carolina in 2019, choosing to play in Mike Leach’s air raid offense at Mississippi State, where he would have
teamed with Charles Cross.
Shrader transferred to Syracuse in 2021 after he failed to beat out fellow QB Survivor contestant Will Rogers and he beat out Tommy Devito for the starting role immediately. Though his first season did not offer many glimpses of hope for an NFL future, Shrader has fantastic stats (10 adjusted Y/A ranks 15th in the country, 8 TD, 1 INT, 212 rushing yards, 4 TD) and Syracuse is actually 4-0.
Date of Birth: 8/5/2000 (draft age: 23)
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Weight: 228 lbs
Last game: 22/33, 277 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 14 rush, 11 yards, 1 TD (W 22-20 over Virginia)
Jaren Hall, BYU - Brigham…Old?
Hall will be one of the oldest prospects in the draft, but many have been waiting years for that moment. A three-star recruit way back in 2016, Hall (whose father Kalin Hall was a running back at BYU) is also a member of the LDS church and like McKee took a two-year mission. When he returned, Zach Wilson was already developing into an NFL talent. It wouldn’t be until 2021 that Jaren Hall became BYU’s starter—five years after he graduated high school. Hall has played well ever since, but will teams be turned off by his age?
Date of Birth: 3/24/1998 (draft age: 25)
Hometown: Spanish Fork, UT
Weight: 205 lbs
Last game: 26/32, 337 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 8 rush, 17 yards (W 38-24 over…well, wouldn’t you know it…Wyoming.)
I don't quite understand the "old" label for a QB. Roger Staubach played after serving his obligation to the navy and was 26 or 27 when he went into the NFL. If you want a QB to play well on a rookie contract, maybe a guy who has a few years of life experience might be better adjusted or have the mental game down. Maybe not, but it doesn't seem like such a deal breaker as it might be for another position.
Buffalo traded up from #12 to #7 to get a guy who only completed 56% of his passes in college. Was Josh Allen your Will Levis in 2017?
Tanner McKee looked bad against a Washington team with a banged up secondary because he couldn't deal with the pass rush. He lacks mobility and the NFL is all about dealing with the pass rush. He's fallen way down my BBQ (Big Board of Quarterbacks).
BTW, the quarterback survivor concept is great and I'm having fun with it. Thanks.