Part 8 of a 10-part series previewing the NFL draft, which begins April 28 at the Auditorium Theatre.
Representatives from every NFL team watched Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen at his college’s pro day last month. But the Bears sent someone significant — to them and to Allen.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, a former Razorbacks quarterback and holder, has known Allen, the son of a former Arkansas defensive coach and current front-office staff member, since he was 7.
“We go back a long ways,” Allen said. “I kept in contact with him, and he would come back to practices and things. I would keep talking to him, and obviously he’s been moving on up in the league, but we’ve kept the relationship.”
That included a conversation with Loggains at Arkansas’ pro day, where Allen performed exceptionally well. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Tuesday that Allen made all the NFL-caliber throws he needed to make.
“I like everything about him,” said Kiper, who envisions him being drafted by the fourth round.
It’s possible he doesn’t last that long. There’s a palpable buzz about Allen, a three-year starter in college who has had several workouts and visits. Quarterback coaches from the Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans also attended his pro day.
The Bears have eyed quarterbacks in the middle rounds, and Allen fits with other offseason additions because of his familiarity with Loggains.
“It would be real nice to go there and reconnect with him and definitely learn from someone like Jay Cutler,” Allen said.
Allen’s individual play and the Razorbacks’ win totals improved every season he was their starter. He also ran a pro-style offense in the touted Southeastern Conference West division.
“I’ve done a lot of things that NFL teams like,” said Allen, who completed 66 percent of his passes for 3,440 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior. “They’ve seen actual throws, NFL-type throws, instead of just bubble screens, screen passes and quick slants.”
At 6-1, Allen doesn’t have the prototypical size teams want. He also made headlines at the NFL Scouting Combine after he had massage work done that increased the size of his hands.
“I don’t fully understand the big debacle of hand size and all that,” Allen said. “I can throw an NFL ball just fine. I never had fumbling issues or anything like that. I just got the hand massages to make them bigger and maybe get back on some people’s draft boards. But it’s never been an issue for me.”
Allen also wouldn’t be the first successful NFL quarterback who lacks the ideal measurements. He can point to Saints quarterback Drew Brees, whom Bears general manager Ryan Pace admires after their time together in New Orleans.
“You play with what you’re given,” Allen said. “I had the biggest O-line in all of football, so I’m used to having big guys in front of me and still being able to throw the ball and be accurate.
“You say Drew Brees, and he’s even shorter than me, and he’s doing just fine in the NFL, if you
POSITION SPOTLIGHT — QUARTERBACK
Rating Bears’ need: Medium
Jay Cutler is under contract for five more seasons, including this year. But the Bears aren’t bound to his deal. The majority of Cutler’s $54 million guaranteed has been paid.
A restructuring in March 2014 created additional salary-cap room by spreading out a $5 million signing bonus over five years into the 2018 season. Only $2 million remains.
That said, Cutler earned general manager Ryan Pace’s and coach John Fox’s confidence last season for his play on the field and his efforts off it.
Cutler said he’s in a comfortable place with Pace and Fox after a turbulent finish under former coach Marc Trestman.
The Bears envision good things ahead from Cutler with new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. Cutler had a career-best 92.3 passer rating last year.
If the Bears do draft a quarterback, he can learn from Cutler and compete with David Fales and Matt Blanchard for the backup spot.
Best of the best
There is a debate about No. 1, but the top two quarterbacks are California’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. The Rams acquired the first overall selection to draft one of them.
Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, who met with the Bears on Tuesday, is right behind Goff and Wentz. All three quarterbacks could be drafted before the Bears’ No. 11 pick.
Pace said that there are a handful of quarterbacks who should be available in the middle rounds that the Bears feel good about.
The next tier of quarterbacks starts with Michigan State’s Connor Cook, who may get drafted late in the first round or in the early second.
Other QBs to watch include Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, Arkansas’ Brandon Allen, Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan and Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld.