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Jonathan Allen NFL Draft Scouting Report: Tempering Expectations

Just how good is he?

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

It is difficult to have a more impressive college resumé than Alabama defensive lineman, Jonathan Allen. The four-year player has wracked up 23 sacks, 26 tackles for a loss and 43 quarterback hurries (CFB Film Room)  in the last two seasons. While being incredibly productive, Allen spearheaded two defenses that ended up in National Titles, winning one and wracked up insane hardware after the season. After his 2016 season, Jon Allen won the Lombardi Award, the Bronco Nagurski Award, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, unanimous All SEC and unanimous All American. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Also he did this.

With a laundry list of accomplishments, highlight plays and a stat sheet that would make the average Madden player blush, it is hard not to expect massive things in the NFL from him. In fact a lot of folks do.

It is hard to blame people for getting excited about Jonathan Allen, however. With all his awesome accolades, he is impressive on tape as well.

Allen was moved all over the place by the Crimson Tide, playing over the center, at the three technique and split out at defensive end. His best asset at all those positions is everything from the shoulders up. His technique is fantastic and shows up on every snap. His ability to stack and disengage from blocks to get to the ball carrier is textbook. As this play shows, Allen is also incredibly aware. Look at the way he moves down the line of scrimmage to find the ball carrier to make the stop at the line. This is an incredible blend of awareness and awesome technique.

Allen's awareness is critical once again in the way he immediately sniffs out the screen and turns it into a negative play. This level of football IQ is rare in the defensive lines and makes Allen's impact that much greater.

To cap it off, Allen has a very high motor. Here he fights through a double team and cleans up the pressure for a sack. He does this on pure motor alone as one of the tackles simply just left him alone after a few seconds.

Allen's tape is very clean and it makes for an easy projection to the NFL. However, it is not without flaws and those are the flaws that separate him from the elite players that folks spent months comparing him to.

Of course athletic ability is not everything and just as it would be stupid to completely dismiss him as a prospect for lack of athletic ability, it would be equally ignorant to compare Allen to the elite level athletes in the NFL.

Some of the players that Allen was mentioned in the same sentence as are on a different planet in terms of athletic ability and that is incredibly important to note when projecting these players to the NFL.

Allen's lacking athleticism shows a lot in his inability to breakdown in the backfield consistently. He has issues redirecting his body in space and while that is easy to overshadow by what he does do well and Alabama's surrounding talent on defense can mask some inability on his part, it is worth noting.

With Allen, it becomes a bit difficult to project where he is playing in the NFL due to his combination of physical deficiencies. He has spent time all over a defensive line at Alabama, but one can wonder where he will be in the NFL. He is not long enough or athletic enough to be considered a high level defensive edge prospect and he lacks the size to consistently play defensive tackle. This creates somewhat of a conundrum.

These worries are not to be mistaken to be dismissals of Allen as a prospect, because he is certainly still a player who deserves a big role on an NFL team, it is just a bit muddier than comparing him to elite NFL talents. It is important to realize that players do not have to be elite in order to be good prospects.

NFL Comparison: In terms of role and ability, Allen is incredibly similar to Pernell McPhee. McPhee was similarly a tweener coming out of Mississippi State who lacked athletic ability and ended up getting picked in the fifth round. McPhee carved out a nice role as a movable chess piece on the Ravens and parlayed that into a big contract with the Chicago Bears. McPhee was able to offset his lack of natural gifts with incredibly good technique, high level awareness and a high motor.

Allen might never be an elite sack artist, but he has the makings of a valuable defender who can be moved around a defensive line and contribute as a run stopper and pass disruptor. Especially on a defensive line that already has some established talent, it is easy to see Allen have a long NFL career even if he is never overwhelmingly productive.

For the Eagles, Allen would be an excellent complementary piece on their defensive line. Even with the addition of Timmy Jernigan and Chris Long this offseason, Allen could be moved around and rotated in, especially being valuable as an interior rusher in wide nine fronts. Picking Allen at 14 would be a bit rich given the talent in this class, but there is no doubt he would have an impact on this football team. Overall, Allen is a nice prospect who will provide a versatile, savvy, and physical presence on a football team. It is just important to not hold him to the expectations of being an elite player and that is okay.

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