Is Keenan Allen's 40 Time Cause for Major Concern?

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Is Keenan Allen's 40 Time Cause for Major Concern?
Harry How/Getty Images

University of California wide receiver Keenan Allen clocked in two separate 40-yard dash times on April 9, running 4.71 and 4.75 seconds, according to NFL.com.

Since the times became official, there has been growing concern over what kind of athlete Allen is, and whether he should be selected in the first round of the draft. Many are wondering if he can separate from defensive backs at the next level and be a deep threat.

Those aren't concerns of mine, though. Why? Because Allen was never considered a true deep threat in college. That's not the strength of his game.

He never showed deep speed like a Mike Wallace-type receiver and didn't run deep routes frequently. Most of his vertical routes were skinny posts from the slot. The majority of his routes were short—hitch and slant routes that emphasized short-area quickness more than straight-line speed.

The short routes benefited Allen because they allowed him to use his size and quick feet, both of which are strengths for him.

He's 6'2" and 206 pounds but moves like a smaller receiver. He makes precise cuts when running routes and is able to use his short-area quickness to separate from defenders laterally.

One example of these traits came against Washington State. It's 3rd-and-5 in the first quarter and Allen is the No. 2 receiver from the sideline-in, ready to run a square-in. Across from him is linebacker Eric Oertel, who lines up to the inside of Allen. This is done to prevent an inside breaking route.

When the ball snaps, Allen takes three steps forward and then jabs his left foot outside. The jab shifted Oertel from inside to the outside, allowing Allen to freely cut inside.

Now wide open, Allen catches the pass from quarterback Zach Maynard and has plenty of room to pick up yards after the catch.

This is another area of Allen's game he excels at, though he doesn't receive enough credit for it. He's a better athlete than he's given credit for and plays faster than his timed 40-yard dashes. NFL Network's Mike Mayock made a great point about Allen's playing speed following the private workout (via NFL.com). 

Three months ago, I said -- if you watch this kid on tape -- if you like him, he's Anquan Boldin. If you don't like him, he's speed-deficient. So I don't really care what he runs in the 40. On tape, to me, he's a 4.55 guy all day long.

Allen's 4.55 speed on tape is a fair assessment and impressive at his size, as one can see on the play against Washington State.

Once Allen caught the pass in stride, he made two defenders miss, kept his balance and continued running downfield.

Then he made another cut to the outside and made another defender miss before finally sprinting into the end zone.

Even though he scored on this play, there are two obvious things to take away from the play regarding his speed:He's not fast, but he's not slow either. He has enough speed to pick up yards after the catch, which will be vital at the next level.

He'll be used in the slot and perimeter because it's a matchup advantage, and he has experience with it at Cal. It's similar to the way the Baltimore Ravens used Anquan Boldin in the playoffs. Boldin ran a 4.71 40-yard dash when he came out of Florida State in 2003 but obviously played faster. 

The concerns with Boldin's speed dropped him near the bottom of the second round, where he was selected No. 54 overall by the Arizona Cardinals. Since then, Boldin's amassed more than 700 receptions and 10,000 yards.

Not bad, right?

Hopefully, teams learned from the Boldin mistake so they don't make the same one with Allen. Relying on stopwatches to determine the speed of a player who is not in football gear is one of the biggest mistakes teams make in the draft.

Moreover, the concern with Allen's time shouldn't be that he ran a slower time than expected, but how healthy his knee is. He injured it in October of 2012 and has yet to fully recover. Teams should be asking how much it affected his speed, and how it will affect him moving forward.

According to Dr. James Andrews, the knee is 100 percent but the surrounding muscles are at 75 percent (via James Dator on Twitter).

It's tough to say whether it affected his speed at his workout—you can judge for yourself by watching the video to the right—but it's possible that it did. If he's not healthy yet and has issues moving forward, then how will it affect his playing speed, which Mayock suggested was 4.55?

After watching Allen's games, it's obvious that he plays faster in pads and is quick-footed, which is more important than having long speed. He's able to get in and out of his cuts quickly and separate from defensive backs in the short and intermediate depths like the Dallas Cowboys' Miles Austin.

If he's able to stay healthy and catch passes from various alignments for a team, he'll be well worth a first-round draft pick.

Hopefully teams won't bypass him like they did Boldin. If Mike Mayock's right about the comparison, it'll sting general managers for quite some time regardless of how fast he ran.

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