2013 NFL Draft: Why Panthers' Interest in Keenan Allen May Be a Smokescreen

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2013 NFL Draft: Why Panthers' Interest in Keenan Allen May Be a Smokescreen
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Unable to perform at this year's combine due to a PCL tear, wide receiver Keenan Allen finally gave NFL scouts something to evaluate when he held his pro day earlier in the week. And based off numerous reports, the Carolina Panthers appeared among those most interested in the California product.

The workout was held at Proehlific Park in Greensboro, N.C., the sports complex owned by Panthers wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl. Allen ran his 40-yard dash and completed numerous drills in highlighting his route running and pass-catching skills. 

According to James Dator of CatScratchReader.com, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera requested a private meeting with Allen after his workout on Tuesday.

 

 

In addition to Rivera and Proehl, special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers and assistant wide receivers coach Lance Taylor were also in attendance to watch Allen.

So is this interest in the former Golden Bears receiver genuine? Are the Panthers seriously considering Allen with the draft's 14th overall selection?

Given his overall talent and the team's need for a wide receiver opposite of Steve Smith, Allen may very well warrant Carolina's first pick this year.

 

But as we've seen in numerous drafts before, this could just be a very elaborate smokescreen.

Here's why:

Tavon Austin and the St. Louis Rams

After clocking in a blazing 4.34 40-yard dash at the combine, Tavon Austin proved that West Virginia's spread offense wasn't completely responsible for "making him look fast."

In fact, Austin's performance could have helped catapult him atop many wide receiver boards, ahead of Allen and Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson.

And even though Cam Newton could benefit in a number of ways from a taller Allen at 6'2", Austin may still be the better fit for the team, 5'8" and all.

For one, he's an instant vertical threat from day one in the NFL. Newton, who possesses elite arm strength, is very adept at nailing to his targets downfield. Austin's speed and tight route running could mean quick points for Carolina's offense.

Second, he could also be an answer to the team's long standing problem in the special teams. Despite signing Ted Ginn Jr. this offseason, the Panthers could still delegate return duties to the electric Austin. Ginn, a dispensable veteran, would easily be pushed aside for a potential first-rounder.

Besides that, Austin is the perfect talent in the Panthers' quest to build around Newton. He's a danger through the air and on the ground. With the coaching staff's creative offensive even without former coordinator Rob Chudzinski, Austin can be much more than a slot receiver.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport
Are the Panthers actually targeting Tavon Austin?

 

On that note, the St. Louis Rams could be just as interested in Austin as anyone. They just lost a similar receiver in Danny Amendola and could use one of their two first-round picks to replace him. 

Austin would be the logical choice for St. Louis and the Panthers should know that.

Carolina's interest in Allen could be serving as a smokescreen to keep the Rams behind them. As the owners of the 16th and 22nd overall selections, the Rams could presumably move ahead of the Panthers at 14 if Austin is still on the board.

Quinton Coples, Part Deux?

Does anyone remember who the favorite was for Carolina's first-rounder last year? Heading into the home stretch of the draft, it was North Carolina's Quinton Coples.

Rivera and then-general manager Marty Hurney met with Coples at Chapel Hill just two days before the draft. At the time, this meeting looked to have been an ol' "tip of the hand" by the Panthers.

Well as we all know, the Panthers did not select Coples. With the defensive end still on the board when their pick came around, the Panthers opted for inside linebacker Luke Kuechly instead. (Great move, of course.)

Given Coples' locality, Carolina was able to stage a smokescreen with the Tar Heels prospect. Allen, who is a native of Greensboro, held his pro day just an hour and a half away from Charlotte.

Geoff Burke/Getty Images
Carolina passed up on Coples to select Kuechly in 2012.

Could the convenience of Allen's location be another pawn in the team's draft plan? Unfortunately for Coples, it was in his case.

 

Carolina's History of Knee Injuries

As stated earlier, Allen is currently recovering from a knee injury. The wideout tore his PCL with three games remaining in his junior season.

If the Panthers are well-versed on any injury of late, it's anything involving the knees. Over the past couple of seasons, the team has seen guys like Jon Beason, Thomas Davis and Brandon Hogan go down to knee injuries.

Will the Panthers be willing to overlook Allen's PCL? Is the injury serious enough to consider passing him up?

With the Panthers seemingly on the upswing, selecting a player coming off an injury may not be the most ideal plan. They appear to be just a playmaker or two away from playoff contention and may not want to blow their first-rounder on such a player.

Regardless, we still have just under two weeks to go until Roger Goodell steps up to the podium to announce Carolina's pick. That selection could end up being Allen.

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