Keenan Allen is one of the toughest guys to work out. He definitely looks the part. Allen’s listed at 6-3, 210lbs by ESPN, although Scout.com had him at 6-2 during recruiting. Either way he’ll handle the physical nature of the NFL and shouldn’t have too much difficulty competing with the bigger corners we’re seeing in the pro’s.
He came into the 2012 season being touted as a likely first round pick. The thing is, he was never going to get there with production. California’s passing game isn’t even mediocre and Allen was fortunate to register 737 yards and six touchdowns before picking up a season-ending knee injury. Has he shown enough quality within a limited passing offense to warrant a first round grade? The jury’s out.
Size is good, but you have to be able to do something with it. If a receiver can’t get downfield or create separation, he’s going to be pretty limited at the next level. Allen’s a good route runner which helps and he’s been able to find space with crisp breaks and a suddenness off the snap. What he hasn’t shown is that ability to consistently break off big plays in the open field or make downfield completions. His biggest play of the year was a 69 yard catch and run against Washington State for a touchdown (click here). Apart from that? In four games this season his biggest play failed to top 25 yards. His touchdown against Washington State is the only play of 50+ yards this year. The highlight reel would be pretty short.
Of course i’s not all about big plays or statistics and again – we have to keep stressing how weak the offense has been at California. It’s cost Jeff Tedford his job as Head Coach. A lack of explosion is a legitimate question mark with Allen though – is he special enough to warrant the high pick? Does athleticism match frame? Jonathan Baldwin had similarly poor production at Pittsburgh and also seemingly had a rare combination of size and speed. However, Baldwin flashed multiple big plays even within a bad offense at Pitt. And when he got to Indianapolis, he did enough to convince the Kansas City Chiefs they needed to spend a late first round pick on his services.
Allen’s lack of pure speed is the biggest concern as well as balance. On too many plays he appears to stumble and lose balance quickly. For a player who is very controlled and crisp with his routes, there are quite a few missed opportunities where he trips up trying to make YAC. As for the speed, Scout.com listed his high school forty yard dash as 4.57. They graded him as a five star safety prospect who also played receiver, but raised questions about his closing speed in the secondary. “Not incredible speed, but more than enough to get the job done” is how they put it.
Allen had a lot of admirers in high school, including all the big talent recruiters – Alabama, Clemson, North Carolina and Oregon. He turned down the chance to stay in state with UNC or Clemson to join his half-brother Zach Maynard at California. Here are the positives as I see it – frame, good hands catcher, very competitive individual on the field, route runner and for a receiver he comes across as a humble and hard working team mate. There are plenty of reasons why you’d consider drafting Allen in the first or second round.
However, few prospects have as much to gain (or lose) from the combine. The list of positives above look very good alongside a 6-3, 210lbs receiver who runs something like a 4.45. With straight line speed like that, you can work on his open field running and feel a little more confident he can offer something downfield at the next level. He’s added about 20lbs since high school when he supposedly ran a 4.57. If he gets to Indianapolis and matches that time – or even gets into the 4.6′s – that will have a big negative impact on his draft stock.
There are other receivers eligible for 2013 (such as Markus Wheaton and DeAndre Hopkins) who lack the size and frame of Allen, but have all of the same route running skills, the hands, the attitude – but they also have deep speed and an X-Factor that’s been lacking in Allen’s game. It might be a year where we don’t see a receiver leave the board in the first round, but eventually it’s going to get very competitive with multiple players at the position leaving the board quickly. Flashing big-time athleticism at the combine is key for Allen and will make or break his stock. It’ll determine whether he goes in the late first like Jonathan Baldwin, or whether he ends up being the 5th or 6th receiver off the board.