Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen: Which QB has the strongest arm in the NFL?

Written By Billy Heyen

There's more to being a quarterback than just throwing the football really far. It doesn't hurt to have all-world arm strength in your back pocket, though.

Both Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen have incredible arm talent. Mahomes showed it off in all facets from basically the second he became a full-time starter in his MVP 2018 season. It took Allen longer to harnass it, but he too finally put it all together in 2020 with a near-MVP campaign of his own.

The two magical right arms are due to face off on Sunday in the AFC championship game. The winner won't be determined by a throw off, although the pair may have one of those down the line. But in a crucial moment, whichever passer can get the ball to his wideout quicker or just a little further could make all the difference.

So which passer will have that capability? Does Mahomes or Allen have the better arm? Are we leaving anyone out of the discussion? Here's a look at just how incredible Mahomes and Allen's arms are, along with how they compare to the rest of the NFL.

MORE: Why Josh Allen's MVP case is closer to Aaron Rodgers' than you think

Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen arm strength

Mahomes and Allen both have very strong arms. There's no disputing that. It can almost ruin the fun to pick a winner here, because it means acting like one of these arm talents is truly lesser than the other.

But that's what you came here for, and Allen has multiple things working in his favor. The first is Madden: The creators of Madden NFL 2021, the latest in the popular video game series, gave Allen a 99 throw power rating and Mahomes only a 97 throw power rating. Those ratings aren't just thrown together without evidence, so it's a good place to start.

Allen and Mahomes have both played their entire careers in the NFL's Next Gen Stats era, which dates back to 2016. One statistic recorded by Next Gen Stats is a quarterback's longest completed air distance on a throw in a season. Of course that means the throw needed to be completed to count toward the statistic, but Allen wins that category, too. His longest completion traveled 63.9 yards in the air (below), while Mahomes' longest traveled 60.9 yards in the air — although Mahomes uncorked a throw in the 2018 preseason that traveled 68.6 yards in the air (below).

In April 2019, Mahomes spoke about Allen's arm strength, even saying he'd be happy to take part in a throw-off with Allen.

"Josh is a great dude, but no one that I've known has been able to throw a ball farther than me," Mahomes said. "I've never seen Josh throw in person but maybe next offseason we can set something up (to see who can throw farther). Hopefully I can get him to come down to Kansas City, and we can do something for charity. It's going to take at least 85 yards to win (the throw-off)."

ESPN dug in further on the topic when Mahomes and Allen faced off in Week 6. According to ESPN, both estimate they can throw a football further than 80 yards in the air (a distance that's unlikely to ever show up in a game).

Speaking with ESPN, Mahomes' estimate is that he can get it out there between 80 and 85 yards. Allen told ESPN earlier this season that he had an elevation-aided 83 yard throw while in college at Wyoming.

At this point, it really might take a throw off to break the tie, at least in terms of who can throw the ball the furthest down the field. At times Allen appears to be throwing absolute rockets even on shorter passes, although he's added touch to his game in 2020, something Mahomes already seemed to have. So maybe that's a separate throw off, almost like a baseball pitcher throwing for a radar gun, and then they can have their long toss challenge, too.

"I don't think it's the smartest thing to do it the day before or the day of the game," Allen told ESPN of a throw off with Mahomes. "But I'm sure we'll have the discussion when we're out there and we see each other."

"I'm usually in Texas and he's usually in, I think, California, so we'll see what happens with that in the future," Mahomes added to ESPN. "But I'm always up to any challenge."

Who has the strongest arm in the NFL?

The NFL's Next Gen Stats service has been tracking the longest completed air distance for quarterbacks since 2016, giving five seasons worth of data through 2020. Using that five years worth of data, these are the 10 players with the longest regular season throws since 2016 — the main disclaimer here is that for the throws to count, they have to have been completed.

Player Team Year Completed Air Distance (yards)
Jay Cutler Bears 2016 65
Russell Wilson Seahawks 2020 64.4
Cam Newton Panthers 2016 64
Josh Allen Bills 2018 63.9
Baker Mayfield Browns 2018 63.8
Deshaun Watson Texans 2020 63.4
Justin Herbert Chargers 2020 63.2
Derek Carr Raiders 2016 62.9
Kirk Cousins Vikings 2018 62.9
Jared Goff Rams 2018 62.7

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