Keenan Allen is the best 2013 NFL draft eligible wide receiver that doesn't have questions about rehab from an injury.
Is he the best 2013 NFL draft eligible wide receiver, period? Let's take a closer look at the big Golden Bear pass-catcher.
Allen's size is going to be an asset at 6'3", 210 pounds. He is not a super-sized wide receiver like, say, Calvin Johnson, but his long limbs and better than average-sized frame should make him a tough draw for smaller cornerbacks.
Allen has speed, but it is build-up speed. He does not get up to top speed right out of his break, but given time to ramp up, Allen can run away from defensive backs.
He is very quick and sudden for a large wide receiver, and Alen is an explosive leaper. He can hang in the air higher and longer than cornerbacks, and he is also athletic enough to do this in stride:
Allen hasn't been asked to run many nuanced routes at Cal. He is targeted on a lot of slants and screens. His breaks aren't especially sharp, and Allen sometimes doesn't give his route his full attention, although the quality of his quarterback could have something to do with that.
His quickness can serve Allen well when it comes time to defeat the jam and get a clean release, and he also has a knack for sitting down in the dead spots of a zone or instinctively finding open space in a defense.
Allen also understands how to use his big frame to make the slant more successful. He naturally angles his body to be in between the defender and the ball in flight:
When it comes time to catch the ball, Allen is a mixed bag. His hands are not 100 percent reliable, and he will drop easy catches. Allen tends to body catch and will double-clutch the ball at times. He does not naturally pluck the ball out of the air like a natural hands catcher.
On the other hand, Allen does have a big catch radius, and his athleticism allows him to adjust to poorly thrown balls (which were frequent last season). There is one situation where he becomes a strong natural hands catcher.
Allen is excellent at timing his leaps to "high point" the ball—that is, catch it at the highest possible point, which is almost always going to be beyond the cornerback's reach:
After the Catch
This is where Allen shines, which is surprising because he is a big receiver. Allen is aggressive running after the catch. He takes on a running back mentality and will lower his shoulder at the end of a run. He is a strong runner who can break tackles, with suddenness in the open field, and Allen knows how to use a stiff arm.
Allen has a terrific feel for weaving in and out of traffic, and he generally senses oncoming tacklers. He can literally fake guys off of their feet, and Allen always has a move loaded up when he encounters a defender. Check out this sequence:
Allen stands up to set up the defender the way a matador sets up a bull:
When the corner charges, Allen gets low and sticks his foot in the ground:
And unleashes on a spin move that belongs on Dancing with the Stars:
There is a little too much looseness to Allen's game at times. He can leave the ball out where it can be easily stripped, and he can forget where the sideline is at times:
Still, overall, he is a clutch player who rises to the occasion on big downs and late in the game. He can bail out his quarterback with acrobatic catches, and by moving around with him when the play breaks down. Allen is tough, not shying away when he knows he is going to have to take a hit to make a catch. He plays fast, but almost always under control.
On the whole, Allen seems to get the most out of his considerable abilities.
Allen needs to demonstrate more mastery of the route tree, but his combination of size, quickness, ups and toughness look like the stuff NFL No. 1 receivers are made of. Put him in your 2013 first round.