Throughout our team-by-team draft previews (shameless plug alert: the Cowboys preview will be dropping within the hour…excitement!) Keenan Allen’s name has often surfaced for the wide receiver-needy teams scheduled to be on the clock in the back half of the first round.
When Alen Dumonjic — our guy who watches only game film from dusk till dawn, meaning he can get a little groggy and irritable in April (don’t touch him) — profiled Allen last week, he made a pretty favorable comparison. If Allen can meet his ceiling (of course, that’s always a certainty…always), he could be Miles Austin.
Dumonjic wrote these glowing words about Allen’s versatility:
The two are very similar in their style of play. They excel at inside-breaking routes that penetrate the middle of the field and can rise up to catch the ball. Like Austin, Allen should be used in situations where he is able to catch the ball and run. He’s not a dynamic YAC receiver, but he has the potential to be a solid one, which is good enough considering all the other traits he brings, including his versatility.
In addition to the above, Allen — like Austin — has the ability to slide inside to the slot receiver alignment and effectively run routes. This could be a problem against linebackers and slot cornerbacks because of his size and quickness. He should be able to catch the ball over the shorter and slower defenders with ease and do what he’s been critiqued about the most: gain yards after the catch.
Remember that comparison, and Allen’s versatility when he’s still available on Day 2 of the draft.
That could easily happen after Allen’s disappointing yet somewhat expected 40-yard dash times during the private workout he scheduled today after he was unable to run 40 yards in a straight line on March 14 (Cal’s Pro Day). Allen played in only nine games during his junior and final season following a grade two PCL strain that also kept him on the sideline throughout combine workouts. Today he didn’t do much to alleviate any concerns, posting times of 4.71 and 4.75 earlier this morning.
That’s some glacial sprinting for a wide receiver. For some perspective, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o — you may have heard of him — improved the 40 time he was sent to hell for at his Pro Day, and his fastest time was a 4.72. Then we have offensive tackle Terron Armstead, who set the record for his position at the Combine with a 4.71.
Yes, that’s correct. A still recovering Allen has either slower or equal speed to that of a linebacker and an offensive tackle, though in fairness the latter isn’t human. Wide receiver is one of the handful of positions where 40 times truly do have an impact, since top-end speed is vital.
So Allen’s poor times indicate there’s still reason to be worried about a knee that flared up during pre-combine training after it was initially diagnosed as a two-to-three week problem. That’s now turned into five months, which will mean Allen could begin to scare off a lot of well-meaning drafting folk. And if that happens and he falls into the second round, he’ll be the draft’s first major bargain.
Allen may fall out of the first because his knee didn’t allow confirmation of tools and could be a problem, but film don’t lie. top 50 pick
— Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom) April 9, 2013
Being scared about his knee is entirely justified, and it’s a fine reason to invest your first-round pick elsewhere. But once the risk associated with the purchase of Allen is minimized even slightly a round later, the team doing the buying is getting a versatile receiver who caught 98 passes for 1,348 yards during his last full season with the Cal Golden Bears in 2011.
His knee is still healing, with the surrounding muscles at about 75 percent, meaning there’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll be fine next fall. Also, blazing speed has never been his game anyway. Allen thrives because he runs precise routes to find open space, hence the Austin comparisons, or maybe even more accurately, the Anquan Boldin comparisons.
He’s easily a first-round talent, but fear leads to irrational thoughts in April.