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Josh Allen 2020 Outlook (Fantasy Football)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Mar 19, 2020

Josh Allen’s fantasy outlook has improved with Buffalo’s addition of Stefon Diggs.

With the sporting world largely on hold while the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL is gobbling up sports headlines with the free-agent tampering period underway and clubs making splashy trades. Among the teams making a big move is the Buffalo Bills. They acquired Stefon Diggs via trade, and my colleagues covered the fantasy impact for Diggs’ 2020 outlook. Buffalo’s acquisition of a top-flight receiver provides a great opportunity to shine a light on Josh Allen’s 2020 fantasy outlook while reviewing his 2019 season.

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Sophomore Surge

Allen made a huge leap in production across the board in his second season. Below, you’ll see a table with some of his noteworthy passing statistics from the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Year Cmp% xCmp% TD% INT% QB Rating ANY/A Y/G Sk% TT (seconds)
2018 52.8 60.5 3.1 3.8 67.9 4.37 172.8 8.0 3.22
2019 58.8 62.6 4.3 2.0 85.3 5.71 193.1 7.6 2.85

Expected Completion Percentage (xCmp%) and Time to Throw (TT) from NFL Next Gen Stats and the other statistics from Pro-Football-Reference.

Allen’s 2019 passing statistics aren’t world-beating, but they demonstrate improvement from his rookie season. Not noted in his time to throw column is that he was the slowest to get rid of the ball among all qualified quarterbacks in his rookie season, and he tied for the 10th-slowest to get rid of the ball in 2019. The improvement probably illustrates a combination of play calling and Allen making strides processing defenses and throwing with anticipation.

Also, while Allen’s completion percentage remained poor at under 60%, he’s not entirely to blame for the low mark. He had the fifth-highest negative completion percentage minus expected completion percentage at -3.7%, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Further, Allen had the highest drop percentage among qualified passers in 2019 at 7.2%, according to Pro-Football-Reference.

Don’t confuse this analysis as completely absolving Allen of blame, though. He totaled the fifth-worst bad pass percentage (20.3 Bad%) and ranked just 21st in on target pass percentage (73.2 OnTgt%). He has work to do as a passer, but his gains from year one to year two are promising in regards to continued growth going forward.

2019 Highlights

For those who enjoy visuals, you can check out an 11-minute highlight package for Allen on the team’s official website. Also, I dug through the Bills’ Twitter feed for some passing highlights to embed here. All of the forthcoming highlights come from the second half of last year.

John Brown had a career year in his first season with the Bills. He was the team’s No. 1 receiver and had a great rapport with Allen. The highlights of all nine of his receptions against the Dolphins in Week 11 above are a great visual representation of the two clicking on all cylinders in Brown’s most productive game in 2019.

Allen does a great job of hanging in the pocket and letting Cole Beasley break open before unleashing a bullet for a touchdown and getting clobbered by the pass rusher.

Allen’s deep-ball issues have gotten a lot of press, but the 34-yard touchdown pass to “Smokey” Brown above illustrates that he can uncork a quality deep ball. Additionally, improving Allen’s deep-ball ability is a priority this offseason. Former NFL Quarterback Jordan Palmer has worked with and continues to work with Allen as a consultant, and he discussed Allen’s 2019 struggles with deep balls while noting the nuances of deep passes here starting at just before the five-minute mark.

Allen had a stellar showing in Buffalo’s Week 13 victory in Dallas against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, and the highlight package above shows some of his best plays from that win.

Yet another example of Allen and Brown’s rapport. Despite the pocket collapsing around him, Allen does an exquisite job throwing a long pass that Brown can make a play on.

In the same contest, Allen zips in a touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Kroft.

Allen was unfazed with a pair of Patriots pass rushers in his face, and he flipped a perfect long pass to a wide-open Brown. Allen regularly targeted Brown deep, and among receivers and tight ends who were targeted a minimum of 75 times in 2019, Brown’s average depth of target of 14.3 yards was tied for the seventh-deepest mark, per Sports Info Solutions. Additionally, targeting Brown was a good move last year, as he posted a 99.2 receiver rating. Interestingly, Diggs topped Brown in both marks with an average depth of target of 14.8 yards and a receiver rating of 108.3 with the Vikings. Diggs and Brown make for a talented duo of deep threats for Allen to air it out to this year.

Offensive Line

Buffalo’s starting offensive line remains intact for 2020 after the team re-signed guard Quinton Spain. Last year, Football Outsiders (FO) ranked the Bills’ offensive line only 23rd in pass protection. It’s not out of the question that with another year of gelling, they could take a step forward to be at least average in 2020.

Perhaps the biggest key for that happening is second-year right tackle Cody Ford turning his tools into on-field production. The Bills thought highly enough of Ford to trade up a couple picks in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft and select him with the 38th pick. He disappointed as a rookie, and Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded him out as one of the worst tackles, especially in pass blocking. It’s entirely possible Ford will prove to be a bust at tackle, but taking a big step forward in his second year is also well within his range of outcomes.

Allen’s Elite Rushing Ability

Am I burying the lede? Maybe. Allen’s fantasy value has been buoyed by his rushing ability. His 510 rushing yards in 2019 were the third-most among quarterbacks, and he led the position with nine rushing touchdowns. Since entering the league in 2018, Allen’s 1,141 rushing yards are the second-most among quarterbacks, and his 17 rushing touchdowns are the most at the position.

Pace and Offense

The Bills were quietly an above-average-tempo offense last year. They played at the 12th-fastest pace and 11th-fastest situation neutral pace, per FO. They were also one of the most run-heavy offenses last year. Their rush rate of 45% was the sixth-highest mark, as you can see at Sharp Football Stats. The Bills will likely once again lean heavily on their defense and running game in 2020, but the addition of Diggs and any improvements as a passer from Allen could result in offensive coordinator Brian Daboll opening the playbook a bit more for the third-year signal-caller to air it out. Further, they wouldn’t have to play much faster to be a top-10 offense in pace this year. Buffalo’s offense should be on the rise after the defense was the marquee unit last season.

2020 Outlook

Allen finished sixth in fantasy points and ninth in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks in 2019, and there’s upside for a higher finish if he continues to make growth as a passer. The only quarterbacks I’m definitely ranking ahead of Allen for 2020 are Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. Currently, I’d also rank Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray ahead of him. The expert consensus ranks (ECR) Allen as QB7, but I’d place him above QB5 Deshaun Watson — sans DeAndre Hopkins — and QB6 Dak Prescott.

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Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

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