Former California wide receiver Keenan Allen has thrown his name into the 2013 NFL draft. Where will he find himself drafted?
Before knowing where Allen will be drafted, we have to look at what he does well and what he doesn't do so great. The Golden Bear has been a phenomenal college football player, but we all know that rarely translates to NFL success or high draft standing.
The biggest issue surrounding Allen's stock is his injured knee. How quickly Allen recovers from the injured PCL in his left knee will ultimately determine where he's drafted. With a healthy knee, Allen is the most dynamic wide receiver in this year's class.
Being fast is important, but how quickly can the player get from standing still to top speed? There is a lot more wiggle room in college, and players without great acceleration can excel, but in the NFL that's not the case. Everyone is fast in the NFL, and acceleration can be the difference between being tackled for a loss and breaking a big run.
Allen does a good job hitting top gear when he sees an opening. He's able to quickly change speed and hit his sprint without a ton of build-up. That's an important trait for an inside receiver and return man, but when watching film of Allen I never stopped and thought, "That guy can run." Some of this may be masked by Allen's bigger frame and long legs, but he doesn't flash as a top-end speed guy.
As a player who lines up often in the slot, Allen finds himself catching in traffic often. He shows a good ability to extend his hands and not shy away from contact in these situations. That's what we want to see.
Allen doesn't have a lot of chances to make highlight-reel catches down the sideline, but his consistency in bringing in the ball and not using his body to make catches in traffic is ideal for the NFL. Allen has strong, active hands and doesn't find himself short-arming attempts at the ball over the middle.
Compared to someone like Justin Blackmon last year—who also projected as an underneath receiver—Allen has much better hands and concentration. He doesn't put the ball on the ground when the quarterback delivers it. Allen is a much better all-around pass-catcher than Blackmon at every level.
ROUTE RUNNING: 8.5
The Cal offense is versatile enough that Allen is asked to run multiple routes. He's shown a good ability to understand timing, space and the intricacies of the route tree.
Jeff Tedford loved to run his schemes through his best players, and that's Allen. Often you'll see Allen running bubble-screens and quick slants—both NFL plays for an inside receiver—and he's doing a good job generating space in his routes.
Allen is a versatile route-runner with the hip flexibility to sink into his routes with ease. This allows for a quick change of direction, which is just as important as pure speed when evaluating a route-runner.
The biggest issue will be that Allen doesn't separate deep with speed, but he does a good job using his 6'3" frame to position himself for the catch, and he has a good ability to high-point the ball when it's in the air.
Allen's speed is deceptive. He's seen as a big-play wide receiver, but the fact is that he doesn't possess great speed.
Allen is more of a vision and agility guy, creating space with his hips and eyes instead of straight-up running past defenders. While Allen shows good acceleration once he's in the open field, more of his big plays come from seeing holes in the defense and running to daylight.
Allen's speed likely won't be tested pre-draft due to his knee injury, but if he's healthy enough to run before April, don't be surprised to see him running in the 4.51 range in the 40-yard dash.
One of the biggest appeals of Allen is his ability to affect the game from different positions. He can line up split wide at receiver, in the slot and in the backfield. He's also a dangerous punt returner.
Allen is the type of athlete that coaches must find a way to implement into the game plan. His size and speed combination makes that easier to do than the smaller speed receivers that are coming into the NFL from college. With Allen's burst, strength and vision, an innovative NFL coach will have a field day scheming ways to get him involved.
OVERALL: 8.5—Late first-round pick
How quickly Allen can recover from the PCL injury is paramount. Ideally he will be healthy enough to train for the NFL Scouting Combine and reduce his 40 time in the process. The rest of the package is there. Allen is a top-level route-runner with good, consistent hands. He's put together two very good years of film (2011-2012) that shows an athletic playmaker with high-level NFL skills.
NFL COMPARISON: Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings
Percy Harvin would win in a foot race, but the two players are very similar in how they can be used at the next level. Like Harvin, Keenan Allen's new coaches will want to get him involved both in the offense and special teams playbooks. He can be a dangerous player with the ball in his hands, and a smart coach will look for ways to do that on bubble screens, reverses, quick passes and in the return game.
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