When one utters the name Keenan Allen among college and pro football circles, what usually comes to mind is a top-flight pass catcher who has been the brightest spot for a California program who that has seen better days having relieved their head football coach of his duties on Tuesday.
It’s easy to see why, the 205 receptions and 2,570 yards piled up through air not only make him arguably one of the most decorated receivers in California Bear history, but also makes him a near lock for the first round in next Aprils NFL Draft.
Though Allen possesses many of the traits found in top wide receiver draft picks in years past, it is his intangibles that truly give him a unique skill set that deserves top 15 consideration.
The job of a number one wide receiver on the pro football level is typically to control the perimeter of the field offensively. He must routinely be able to make plays outside of the numbers and preferably command the attention of two pass defenders often. At 6’3 and 205 pounds, Allen has great size and length for the position. He is extremely agile and sudden for a player his size which makes him dangerous after the catch where he runs creatively, instinctively, and aggressively. He finishes runs the way you’d expect your running backs to. We don’t see that material of cloth much anymore from wide receivers these days. Maybe Anquan Boldin of the Baltimore Ravens, but there are few. This speaks to his competitiveness and aggressive style of play, where he has shown the ability to out battle defensive backs for the football in the air and expose himself to punishment running routes over the middle of the field.
He has the flexibility to move around the formation, being effective in both the slot and on the outside. As a return specialist, Allen fields balls cleanly and returns bravely displaying the same open field running abilities that make him dangerous after the catch. However, what few realize is that Allen possesses traits that rarely get evaluated when projecting a wide receiver.
He can pass the football and has completed each of his attempts with one touchdown to his credit during his college career. He offers offensive coordinators the ability to pull out there gadget playbook and use him the way the Steelers and Redskins used Antwan Randle El, a threat to run, pass, or catch.
As a high school senior, he was the nations top rated safety where he registered 145 tackles for a young Northern Guilford program led by a head coach who believes in his players being capable of handling multiple roles for his football team. Alabama head football coach Nick Saban was ready to make reservations for Allen in his defensive secondary even. Think he can cover a kick? How about mimicking what Julian Edleman does for the Patriots when he vacates his normal wide receiver position to help out in the secondary? I’m not saying that you’d want to use your number one guy in this manner, but should we disregard the added value? Keenan Allen is not just a receiver; this is versatile football player who has great work ethic, sound football IQ, and outstanding character.
As Allen enters an off-season where he is expected to forgo his final year of eligibility and enter next Aprils NFL Draft, there are questions marks that surround his health. He missed the final 3 contests this year after suffering an apparent PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) strain while covering an onside kick where he fell on a bent knee. This is an injury characteristically seen in car accidents when a passengers “bent knees” collide into the glove compartment abruptly forcing their shin backwards on impact while their momentum is moving forward. Try jumping up as high as you can in the air and falling completely on a knee that is bent at 90 degrees. This is a variation of what could have happened to Kenan on that mysterious play. These type of injuries can take anywhere from couple of weeks to a couple of months to fully recover with most not warranting any surgical attention. I’ve had one myself.
All signs point to Allen being able to recover in enough time to fine tune the weakest areas of his game and confirm a clean bill of health at next February’s NFL Combine.
The 20-year old underclassmen needs to prove that he can become more comfortable catching the ball away from his body. He tends to let too many footballs get into his chest leaving windows of error for ricochet interceptions and dropped balls. He must show that he can expand his route running tree to include the more intricate routes that he wasn’t asked to run at Cal while also addressing the whispers of only good, not great foot speed. Though he is a proven “playmaker”, he will need to run in the low 4.5’s or high 4.4’s to maintain his spot atop the 2013 wide receiver draft class.
Keenan Allen is blessed with a bevy of tools that should have great impact as he projects to the next level. He is a developing and elite talent who has a ways to go in regards to reaching his ceiling. He can run, catch, throw, and return for your football team. If he can regain the health that saw him dominate the opposition at the collegiate level and evaluators are able to properly access his intangible attributes, look for those things to be the added dimension needed to solidify Allen as the 2013 NFL Drafts top wide receiver.