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Ringolsby: An unconventional view of what Josh Allen could be in the NFL

Tracy Ringolsby Avatar
April 25, 2018

During his time as a big-league scouting director with the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers, Sandy Johnson emphasized to the scouts working for him that he did not want to hear about what players couldn’t do.

“That’s easy,” said Johnson. “You are on safe ground by saying a player can’t play because the odds are against many of them making it to the big leagues. What you want to hear is what a player can do.”

And with that in mind, Johnson, retired and living outside of Baltimore, says Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen caught his attention. And he is buying the speculation that Allen will be one of the top picks in the NFL draft – if not the top pick.

He has read and heard the cynics who complain that Allen doesn’t have that soft toss for success in the short game, a complaint similar to what the likes of John Elway and Colin Kaepernick endured.

Has noticed the “draft experts” who proclaim that Allen’s failure to complete more than 60 percent of his passes marks him for failure in the NFL. And he isn’t paying any attention.

“I saw him in a few games, including the (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl) in Boise and then the Senior Bowl,” said Johnson. “You had the feeling he is going to be Carson Wentz.”

That has been an often-mentioned comparable. But then Wentz was a walk-on at North Dakota State, where at that time the head coach was Craig Bohl, and offensive coordinator was Brent Vigen, now the head coach and offensive coordinator at Wyoming.

And like Wentz, Allen was overlooked by major schools. His ambition, growing up outside of Fresno, Calif., was to play college football at Fresno State. Not only was he not recruited by the Bulldogs, but he was also denied an opportunity to walk on.

He opted to spend a year at Reedley Junior College, and after that season sent an email with video clips attached to 100 college coaches. Only one school responded – Wyoming.

“The naysayers will bring up that he completed 54 percent — or something in that area — of his passes,” said Johnson. “But when you are a scout, when you are looking at young players, you look at the tools, the skill set that you can develop. You look at what can make a young man successful at the next level.

“It’s not an exact science, but you have to believe your eyes.”

Johnson’s eyes were good.

In his 14 years as a scouting director – for the Padres(1982-84) and the Rangers (1985-95) — all 14 of his first-round picks made it to the big leagues, and 79 players drafted during his tenure as a scouting director made it to the big leagues.

That does not include the abundance of Latin players, who weren’t draft eligible. Among the Latin players signed by Johnson and his scouting staff were Ivan “Pudge” Rodriquez, Benito Santiago, Ozzie Guillen, Sandy Alomar, Juan Gonzalez, Sammy Sosa and Wilson Alvarez.

What makes Johnson so impressed with Allen is simple.

It’s about skills and size.

“You look at his size, his mobility and you see everything a scout could want to see,” said Johnson. “Is he raw? Sure he is. But that’s why I like him. I like that raw kid with big-time potential. And that’s him.”

And that’s an approach that made Johnson a success in his days as a scouting director first with the Padres (1982-84) and later with the Rangers (1985-95).

“You want to see that raw ability,” said Johnson. “You can’t teach that. You see a kid with that skill set, and you know if you have a good staff he’s going to be a keeper because the organization will develop the skill set.”

Johnson has the track record to support his philosophy.

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