Hello there. This is a post in which we’ll bravely explore the dark and deepest depths of depth charts, looking for sleepers who are sometimes absurdly deep that you should watch out for either as a late-round flier, or an early season waiver wire add. I’ll also be wrong often in this post, so you can enjoy that too.
Keenan Allen could be the best value purchase in this year’s draft (the real one in April, not the fake ones happening now) after he fell because of both a lingering knee injury, and a failed drug test at the scouting combine. A first-round talent tumbled all the way to the third round, when the Chargers happily added to their deep wide receiver group.
It’s a little too deep, though, and with Danario Alexander, Malcom Floyd, Robert Meachem, and Vincent Brown in his way along with possibly Eddie Royal, snaps could be difficult to find. Which is a damn shame, because Allen may have more upside than every receiver there not named Alexander or Brown.
Allen is aware of his situation, but he still said a gritty competitive athlete thing to the San Diego Union-Tribune:
“I want to be a starter. I don’t want to watch. I want to be part of the moment. I don’t want to watch it.”
Here’s to hoping he can claw his way to at least the No. 3 hole behind Brown and Alexander and receive slot looks. His ceiling in an offense which will have Philip Rivers righted by Mike McCoy (crosses fingers and other things) is just too good to bury.
When our boy Alen Dumonjic looked at Allen prior to the draft, he compared the Cal product to Miles Austin.
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.
If we also allow ourselves to exist in a wondrous world where Ryan Mathews’ luck changes and he has his first fully healthy season, then this Chargers offense is one in which Allen could use his versatility to excel in the slot while Alexander and Brown stretch the field deep.
His speed is good, though not great even when he’s healthy. But at the draft NFL Network’s Mike Mayock cared little about that while dropping another player comparison: Anquan Boldin. Mayock believed that much like Boldin has for years, Allen can beat up defensive backs physically with his 6’2″, 260-pound frame, and be an effective target while finding holes up the middle. His leaping ability is an extra asset which enables Allen to snatch balls in coverage.
Barring an abrupt and significant rise early in training camp, Allen isn’t someone you’d consider with even a late-round flier, except in especially deep leagues. But after catching 98 passes for 1,343 yards during his last healthy season as a Golden Bear, he’s simply too talented to keep on the sidelines for any length of time.
Watch him closely, and be ready with a depth waiver wire add on this low risk/high ceiling receiver if Allen can separate himself.