Following Kentucky’s victory over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s day, Kentucky Linebacker Josh Allen came forth and spoke highly of his own abilities in regard to moving to the next level. Specifically, he commented that if he did not go #1 in the draft, he had no idea who would. That answer more commonly than not, is Ohio State Defensive End Nick Bosa. For this, I will be going through various aspects of their game, and seeing how Josh Allen matches up in a comparison of the two, and answer the question: Should Josh Allen be the #1 pick?
When regarding size, Bosa and Allen are very similar. Bosa currently stands at 6’3, 263 lbs, making him an ideal size for the defensive end position. Allen is slightly taller at 6’5, and the Kentucky athletic website lists Allen at 260 lbs.
Allen and Bosa were both used by their teams as disruptive edge rushers, but aside from that, there are few similarities between the two in how they play the game. For one, Allen is a power type of guy, using his strength to barrel through and manhandle the offensive tackle. This is different from Bosa, who relies more on his speed and finesse in order to slip into the backfield on a consistent basis.
When dealing with the pass rush, Bosa holds the edge in this category for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, Bosa’s initial burst off the line at the snap is deadly in and of itself. This was especially apparent against teams who used shotgun formations, as by the time the ball got into the hands of the QB, Bosa would already be across the line of scrimmage and vying for advantageous positioning against the O-tackle. Because of this, it is difficult for linemen to get both hands on Bosa’s center mass, and makes it more likely the linemen will be called for holding as he tries to get better handling of Bosa’s pads. Allen simply does not have this initial burst. During my time scouting Allen, I recorded 46 snaps to see how many times he managed to gain advantageous positioning. Of the 46 snaps, Allen managed to get into advantageous positioning 22 times. while nearly half is still a solid number, it is not on the same level as Bosa. The only aspect of the pass rush where Allen holds an advantage over Bosa is his ability to shed face up blocks. While Bosa is a significant problem, when an O-lineman does manage to catch him with a centered, face-up block, Bosa is more or less removed from the play. Allen does not suffer from this, as his level of strength allows him to shed the block and keep himself in the play. What I will commend both players for is their high motor. Neither give up on plays, and bring a constant hustle that would make any coach or teammate proud.
Defending the Run:
Josh Allen is the better choice between the two in this regard. One of his biggest selling points comes from his ability to see where the hole is opening up, and crashing down to plug the opening. Allen already has the advantage in this regard as a linebacker, as they are more often than not, more responsible for dealing with the runningback compared to a defensive end. Allen is also the much more reliable tackler, as his fundamentals in the area are stellar. Bosa is by no means a liability in the run; He can chase down any slow or indecisive backs, and has the awareness to use the congestion at the line of scrimmage to his advantage. The issue comes from the point in the PASS RUSH section. Bosa is weak against the face-up block, which can hinder or delay his ability to act on the run, simply because the O-linemen are allowed to attack the line of scrimmage as opposed to sliding back to form the pocket in pass block. While Bosa is not a complete liability, his reliance on evasion makes this type of contact unfavorable for him.
This boils down to preference. Allen has been asked to cover the flat or curl on his side, whilst Bosa has been tasked with containment against any runners out of the backfield or scrambling QBs. Both are not particularly good at these assignments. For one, Bosa tends to play more aggressive than is needed of him, translating to being more prone to penetrate the pocket rather than play contain on the edge. Allen suffers from a lack of agility and directional mobility. He also does not possess the peripherals or the awareness in coverage to keep track of his receivers. Personally I would argue Bosa is farther along with this that Allen, as Bosa’s aggression dilemma is quicker to fix than Allen’s cover skills.
Allen and Bosa are pretty close when discussing pure athleticism, but once again I will give the edge to Bosa. The main reasoning falls under the fact that Bosa’s only real issue on the athletic front is that he is not spectacularly strong compared to others. This, opposed to Allen’s quickness and directional mobility, is a much easier problem to fix. While Allen can be a physical threat on the edge when he blitzes, his threat comes from his bullrushing ability, not his speed or burst off the line.
Again, this is boils down to personal preference, but I would give a slight edge to Allen when it comes to IQ. Bosa is obviously an intelligent player, and his ability to read and react is a selling point to his game. That being said, Allen’s anticipation is hard to top, as he seems to be able to always find where the play is trying to go, and finds a way to plug himself in the spot in order to mess up or divert the play. Allen has great vision and rarely gets faked out by plays. Bosa shows a similar ability to see the field, and this helps Bosa figure out where to go when he attacks the pocket. If a run is on the inside, Bosa positions himself closer to the edge when he performs his moves in order to keep himself close to the runner. On the rush against the shotgun, Bosa never overextends or overshoots where he is supposed to be, meaning he very rarely mistakenly takes himself out of the play. So like I said in the beginning, this one comes down to preference.
This is one where a lot of hypothetical discussion comes into play, so do not take this at face value, and I implore you to watch film on the players yourself to come to your own conclusions, but I would argue at this present moment, Nick Bosa is better prepared to make an immediate impact on the NFL compared to Allen. Both, I believe could make the starting lineup by the being of the 2019 regular season, but Bosa’s game is more evolved and refined enough that he can be a threat out of the gate, whereas I believe Allen has aspects of his game that need work before he can take as much responsibility. This, of course is also prone to unintended bias because of the difference of position between Allen and Bosa. Bosa being a D-lineman means that he will have to worry about less responsibility and varying assignments throughout the season. While NFL teams have gotten creative with their blitzes (sending most of the LBs while dropping the DEs to confuse the QB, for instance), for the most part it is easy to assume the majority of Bosa’s responsibility will be Rush the pass, crash on the run, and/or contain outside mobility. This is completely different from a linebacker like Allen, who will be asked to not only blitz, but plug holes in the run, cover zone assignments, play man from time to time, among any other crazy defensive plays. Allen’s ability to contribute is evaluated from various aspects of his game in every situation he may find himself in, and so he could be docked for being a poor cover man, while the same point will never be touched when evaluating Bosa. This is why this point is rather hard to judge on different positions. Still, in regards to Allen, the major point that keeps me from choosing him over Bosa is his lack of playmaking ability on coverage. His speed can keep him on pace with most of the tight ends in the NFL, but it is unknown how effective he can be on man assignments against big name TEs like Kelce, Ertz, or Gronkowski. As I have already mentioned before, he lacks the ability to be effective on zone assignments at the moment. As he stands now, Allen is limited to what he can do on the field, and if you are talking about the #1 pick in the draft, it is easy to see why teams would prefer Bosa’s refined game.
I did not start writing a “Bold Predictions” section to my scouting reports until after I completed my Nick Bosa report, so I did not actually do a bold prediction for him. Allen, I predict, has the potential to be an NFL All-Pro akin to Terrell Suggs. When dealing with potential, two distinct questions come to mind: What is a player’s ceiling, and how much improvement is needed to get him there? When discussing Bosa and Allen, I believe both have very high ceilings that can potentially make them career All-Pros; However, if we are discussing how close they are, or how quickly they can reach that level of dominance, then Bosa would be my choice for who will reach their potential first. Bosa’s game is refined. He has excellent body control, a wide variety in his moveset, quick hands and swift feet, and a high motor to power him through the entire game. In a basic sense, Bosa’s game is solid enough that his improvement will be building on his solid foundation and expanding his ability to be a threat on the field. Allen is a different story. While Allen’s blitz and run stopping abilities are first-rate, his pass coverage and overall mobility need improvement in order to be at a superb level of development. This means that in a major aspect of his foundation, Allen will be playing catch up with others in his draft class. This is usually overlooked, or placed into context with the type of work ethic an individual has, so Allen is still seen as a solid first rounder despite this major flaw in his game (as he should be). But we are not discussing the first round, Allen is specifically discussing the first overall pick in the draft. With this in mind, it can not be overlooked that based on where they are right now, Bosa is simply further along in his development than Allen is.
When comparing the two directly, it can really come down to preference and team philosophy when deciding who to pick between the two. Both have similar sizes, and if given the proper tutelage, could probably even play each other’s position. That being said, Josh Allen specifically claimed he should be the #1 pick in the 2019 NFL draft. When comparing him with someone who is widely considered to be that pick in Nick Bosa, it showcases Allen’s ability in a beneficial light, but also highlights where his game is simply not ready yet. Allen is easily a top 10 player in the 2019 draft, but he is not at the level to be the first overall pick.