Top NFL Draft Prospects: Jonathan Allen breaks the Bama D-line mold
Smaller and quicker than many of his predecessors, the Tide DT looks like a first-round lock
In preparation for the 2017 football season, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top NFL draft-eligible prospects with a different player profile each day. The series will culminate with the preseason top-20 prospects in August.
With all due respect to the rest of the Alabama program -- including Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry -- the "biggest" reason for the Tide's title run last year was the dominant play of the defensive line.
There have been plenty of theories as to why Robinson and Reed ultimately slipped into the second round of last April's draft. The answer may be that the defensive linemen likeliest to make an immediate impact in the NFL -- Allen - opted to return to Tuscaloosa for one more year.
Smaller but quicker than his run-stuffing former teammates, Allen is a force against the pass as well as the run. Possessing enough burst to challenge tackles as well as enough size and strength to hold up inside, Allen provides greater positional and schematic versatility than many of the defensive linemen before him at Alabama.
Like most of the Crimson Tide's top players, Allen signed as a highly-touted prep. He earned five-star marks from several recruiting websites and was named Virginia's Gatorade Football Player of the Year following a senior season in which he recorded an astounding 119 tackles with nine sacks, six fumble recoveries, eight pass breakups, six blocked kicks and seven pass breakups as a defensive end. Allen weighed 263 pounds at the time and even drew interest from some teams as a potential outside linebacker convert.
Instead, he's gained nearly 30 pounds in Alabama's conditioning program, earning First Team All-SEC recognition the past two years after playing in 13 games as a true freshman reserve in 2013. Allen established himself as a force by his sophomore campaign, starting 12 of 14 games and registering 33 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks -- each of which ranked second on the team.
He surprised scouts by opting to return for his senior campaign after taking his game to another level last year, collecting 36 tackles, while leading the team in both tackles for loss (14.5) and sacks (12) to earn all-conference honors from the media and coaches, alike.
Folks, 293 pound defensive ends are rare and those collecting 12 sacks at that size are almost unheard of -- but that is the kind of unique talent Allen offers.
With broad shoulders, a relatively trim middle and thick, well-built limbs, Allen certainly looks the part of a future NFL standout. While lacking the explosive burst to remain as a full-time 4-3 defensive end in the NFL, Allen can generate pressure off the edge, surprising opponents with his quickness, balance and flexibility.
If Allen's feet are good, his hands are better. He possesses an NFL-ready repertoire of pass rush techniques, incorporating swim, rip and push/pull moves to rag-doll would-be blockers on his way to the ball. He's powerful, bending his knees and anchoring well. Allen's strength shows up with his bull rush and with his forceful tackles. Perhaps best of all, Allen shows impressive awareness of what is going on around him, sniffing out screens and getting his hands up in passing lanes. Allen knocked down four passes last year and blocked a critical PAT against Arkansas in 2014, helping the Tide preserve a 14-13 victory.
The knocks on Allen to this point are more nitpicks than truly faults. At 293 pounds, he is not going to remain as a full-time defensive end in the NFL and therefore expectations of his sack numbers off the edge need to be realistic.
Though he saw his share of double-teams last year, opponents couldn't focus too much attention on him. That, of course, will change this year, potentially dropping his numbers. Unlike some of the past Bama defensive linemen, Allen is at his best splitting gaps rather than absorbing blockers, making him likely a better fit with 4-3 teams than in the 3-4.
After starring at defensive end for the Tide, some could be concerned with the idea of "projecting" Allen as a defensive tackle. He was frequently moved inside last year in passing situations, however, and is more disruptive there, anyway.
In fact, Allen's combination of power, quickness and technique could make him a moveable chess piece along the defensive line - similar to what the slightly longer and leaner Michael Bennett (6-4, 274) provides for the Seattle Seahawks.
Our Latest Stories
Here's what you need to know from the pro days of Florida, Florida State, Texas and Eastern...
The Lions could be in the market for an impact safety and Peppers is a top-tier athlete with...
Lamp’s performance continues the momentum he's created for himself throughout his senior s...
The versatile Stanford star would wear a lot of hats in Green Bay
Michigan, California and BYU held pro days on Friday, with Davis Webb fighting a 'torrential...
Plus, prospects at Utah, Missouri and San Diego State look to make their mark on a busy Th...