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NFL Mock Draft 2019: Oakland Raiders opt for an edge rusher

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With the 4th overall pick in the 2019 Bleeding Green Nation community mock draft, Oakland Raiders GM SisyphusNoMore selects ...

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Kentucky vs Penn State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky

My primary challenge as a mock drafter is that Jon Gruden works in mysterious ways. Although Mike Mayock is the Oakland Raiders’ nominal General Manager, Gruden has final say in personnel decisions. Thus, I must draft with one and only one of the following mindsets:

  1. To “draft for the Raiders”: simply make (what I think is) the best selection for the team.
  2. To “draft as the Raiders”: simply predict what the Raiders will do.

I choose to draft for the Raiders. As such, I will address the team’s greatest (glaring) need with the Best Player Available (BPA): Josh Allen (EDGE, University of Kentucky).

The Player

Thus far, Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State) has garnered the most hype of this year’s EDGE prospects, thanks to his precociously refined technique, obvious talent and production, and the success of his brother Joey with the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers. Yet if these pooled evaluators are any indication, Allen just might offer higher upside than Bosa as an EDGE defender.

  • Physical Traits:

Scouting for SB Nation, former NFL defensive end Stephen White calls Allen “athletic as hell”. Allen has “elite physical traits”, says Lance Zierlein of NFL.com. Over at The Draft Network, Jon Ledyard agrees that Allen’s “size, length, build and athleticism all appear to be top-notch”.

Standing at 6’ 5” and 262 pounds, with an arm length of 33 1/2”, Allen has the prototypical frame for a 3-4 pass rusher (despite his comically tiny 8 3/4” hands). Likewise, he has a dominant and well-rounded athletic profile (see spider graph), with excellent explosiveness, speed, and agility.

His Relative Athletic Score (RAS) is brilliant at OLB and at DE:

  • Production:

While Allen flashed throughout his career at Kentucky, his rise as a senior was truly meteoric. Under the instruction of OLB Coach Brad White, who coached Robert Mathis on the Colts, Allen soared to new heights in 2018:

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table

Read that 2018 stat line again: seventeen (17) sacks (2nd in the nation), not to mention 22 tackles for loss (T-6th) and 5 fumbles forced (T-2nd). As demonstrated by Allen’s film, this production is no fluke. Indeed, it might even sell him short.

  • Pass Rushing:

In a passing league like the NFL, Allen’s pass rushing is the primary attraction in his evaluation. As such, this segment of analysis will feature the most detail.

First Step: Allen possesses excellent quickness, burst, and explosion out of a 2-point stance (as an OLB); when (occasionally) rushing from a 3-point stance (as a DE), his first step is even more lethal. If Allen completely eliminates his occasional false-step (possibly stemming from balance issues), his get-off could border on transcendent.

Tom Mead, Inside the Pylon:

Very good burst to get off the ball to put pressure on the offensive lineman...

Whether in a 2 point stance rushing the passer or as a 6 technique over the tight end, he gets on his toes anticipating the snap and will lose his balance forward which can limit his play strength at the point of attack and his explosiveness when rushing.

Stephen White, SB Nation:

...Allen [is] quick as a cat, and fast as a hiccup to boot.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com:

First-step rush quickness...

Joe Marino, The Draft Network:

Explosive out of his stance...Occasionally false steps out of his stance which if cleaned up, will make him even more consistently effective.

Kyle Crabbs, The Draft Network:

Natural explosiveness is evident at release of the snap...getting out of stance can be further enhanced by eliminating an intermittent false step. Burst is present in linear and lateral situations.

Jon Ledyard, The Draft Network:

Good first step out of a 2-point stance...[the ten-yard split of] his [40-yard dash] will be just fine. Slight recoil in his stance which can delay his first step by a split-second. Against Mississippi State worked from a 3-point stance on a handful of snaps and his get-off was jaw-dropping every play...explosiveness [might be] magnified with his hand in the dirt, something he didn’t do often at Kentucky.

Speed and Acceleration (Around the Arc): As confirmed by his blazing 4.63 time (90th percentile) in the 40 yard dash, Allen uses exceptional acceleration and speed to press the advantage given by his first step.

Mead:

Has the speed...to get around the edge...

Zierlein:

Elite...speed...

...charge to challenge the edge

Maintains top gear through the turn

Marino:

Vertical push puts major stress on the offensive tackles ability to reach his set points and keep pace. Does well to alter his stride lengths and use his feet to most effectively rush....capable of winning with pure speed off the edge. Rapidly accelerates in space...

Krabbs:

Wins with a lot of speed reps courtesy of acceleration through the arc.

Ledyard:

...covers ground quickly up the arc with long strides.

Flexibility and Bend (to Corner): Allen’s elite bend and flexibility is arguably his strongest asset, which translates Allen’s positional leverage (against an OL too slow to his set points) into direct pressure on the QB.

Mead:

Has the...flexibility to get around the edge...

Burst and Bend – Against Florida, rushing from the right he shows very good acceleration at the snap to get upfield to pressure the tackle and uses a chop to get the hands down. Good ankle flexion and bend around the corner. QB Feleipe Franks (#13) luckily tucks the ball after pumping to the right or else this is likely a strip sack.

White:

...tremendous ability to turn the corner and get pressure on the quarterback.

Marino:

...flexibility leads to regular success attacking the outside edge track...

Loose in his hips and ankles which enable him to bend around the corner. Carries impressive speed through tight turns...Moves laterally with ease...

Crabbs:

Bendy. Fluid hips are showcased turning the corner...Lower body flexibility is top tier and allows for very sharp corners to turn and eliminate leverage by blockers trying to wall off a rush.

Ledyard:

The progress he has made getting his hips and feet pointed to the pocket is truly amazing...showed outstanding flexibility. Drops his shoulder fluidly to reduce surface area and win at the top of the arc. Bendy in the hips and can turn fairly tight corners to the pocket.

Speed-to-Power Conversion: Allen is inconsistent in converting speed to power, though he has the physical ability to leverage his natural power. While power rushes will come to enrich Allen’s game, they will remain an auxiliary element in his pass rushing.

Mead:

Doesn’t transition from speed to power as well as you’d like at this point but is something he can improve on.

White:

He didn’t do bunch of power rushes in the games I watched, but I believe he showed on film he’s definitely strong enough to mix that in to his repertoire a little more on the next level.

Marino:

Good but not great...Developing the ability to convert speed to power with more consistency would improve his pass rushing attack.

Crabbs:

...adding some more physical components (...speed to power) to his pass rush repertoire will take him to his ceiling as a player.

Ledyard:

Doesn’t convert speed-to-power very often, but I wouldn’t either with his other traits.

His style of play is not overly physical, nor is physicality a concern. As he’s gotten stronger, his desire to grind out tough reps in the trenches has grown as well.

Repertoire (Moves and Counters): In addition to his deadly speed rush, Allen has an incomplete arsenal of effective moves and counters, with the promise of growth ahead: his rip move, chop, and swat are his calling cards, and he has flashed both a forearm sweep and a push-pull. To truly dominate, Allen should more consistently harness his length with a long arm and his quickness to the inside (against OTs who fear his speed and overset to the outside); a spin move wouldn’t hurt, either. Fortunately, he is hungry to learn and has a steep learning curve.

Mead:

Uses a speed, rip and chop well but needs to add more to succeed consistently at the next level. Use of a spin and long arm would be two moves that would make him even tougher to defend.

Quickness to the inside – Against Missouri, lined up as the 6 technique on the right over the tight end. Reading pass, he attacks straight at the tackle and uses quickness and agility with what looks like a swat/swim move to the B gap to get in nearly untouched and get the strip sack.

Rip to the Outside – Against Missouri, again lined up over the tight end, this time on the left side. Chooses to go outside with speed and rip with the right arm to get under the tackle. Again with good bend around the edge, he used his length and outstretches his left arm to again strip QB Drew Lock (#3)

Zierlein:

Long, lateral slide to access his inside rush counter

Greases the edge with well-timed chop from inside hand

Needs to diversify rush approach...[and] incorporate a quality mid-rush counter

White:

...didn’t show a ton of moves, but he was able to use his lateral quickness to get to the quarterback quite a bit...

The one time I did see him use a long arm move he was successful with it...if he can develop just that one move into a weapon he can consistently win with, it’s going to be hell on the offensive tackles who try to block him one-on-one.

...he could stand to use a few more counter moves off his speed rushes

Marino:

More counters...and developing an inside move would take his already outstanding ability to the next level.

Krabbs:

...forearm sweep and shallow rip are most predominantly used counters...can still stand to improve the timing of his hand counter and add more violence to fully clear the hands.

...shows suddenness to jump down into a gap as play develops. Can cut across the face of over-setting OTs as a rusher.

Ledyard:

Two-handed swats to win the edge became a go-to move. Does a good job of reducing his surface area while cornering, using his inside arm to keep his frame relatively clean around the edge. Flashed push-pull throughout the year that gave him several 1v1 wins. Long arm and cross chop could be deadly moves for him if he eventually adds them.

Has to do a better job at converting speed-to-counter and winning back inside against oversets...has all the tools with his burst and bend to force tackles deep in their set points and exploit the inside track to the quarterback.

Hand Usage: The technical refinement in Allen’s handwork is limited, but he is a very active hand-fighter whose moves are becoming increasingly deadly as he polishes his handwork.

Zierlein:

Impressive accuracy as hand-fighter

Usage of hands needs improvement across the board...catches rather than pop with hands

White:

Allen was also very active with his hands as a pass rusher, and that allowed him to make it real hard for offensive linemen to get their hands on him. It also helped him to get their hands off of him and escape off blocks on those rare occasions when those offensive linemen were successful.

Marino:

Showcases the ability to clear his pads and soften the outside rush angle. Can stand to be more assertive and violent with his hands. Still room for growth in terms of timing and placement with his hand combating.

Crabbs:

...allows for uprooting [pass protectors] with powerful upper body and angular attacks of the opponent’s leverage.

Can still stand to improve the timing of his hand counter and add more violence to fully clear the hands.

Ledyard:

Among the biggest areas of improvement for him. Used his hands much better in 2018 than he did a year ago...most of the time fires hands to chest and gains early control of the rep.

Closing: Allen is a phenomenal, phenomenal finisher with a ruthless closing burst, a nose for the ball, and a knack for forcing fumbles; his pressures routinely become sacks, and his sacks routinely become game-changing turnovers.

Mead:

Very good at attacking the ball when rushing the quarterback to force fumbles.

Zierlein:

Targets football for strip sacks once he turns the corner

White:

I also positively loved how Allen went after the ball as he was sacking the quarterback, too. He wasn’t content with just getting to the passer; he was trying to get a change of possession as well.

Allen has quite a knack for finding the ball as well, which is how he ended up with two fumble returns in the one game where he didn’t have any sacks against Georgia. The precision with which he scooped the ball and was able to recover it with Georgia players grabbing for it on both plays was uncanny. This guy just shows up and finds ways to make plays, no matter where he is lined up or what he is asked to do on those plays.

Marino:

Illustrates a blazing second gear when closing in on the quarterback.

Crabbs:

Intelligent player who looks to attack the football when closing in on the quarterback...explosive finishing potential if sustaining forward momentum to the ball.

Ledyard:

...as a pass rusher he targets the football brilliantly. Consistently finds a way to finish even by getting one arm free and his hips around to swipe the quarterback in his release.

In conclusion, Josh Allen has a tremendous first step, and top notch acceleration and speed around the arc, to threaten the edge. He converts this advantage to pressure in a variety of ways. Most consistently, he leverages elite flexibility to turn the corner: to go around the OL. In encouraging flashes, he leverages his quickness on effective inside moves: to go back inside the OL. In rarer (yet still encouraging) flashes, he also leverages his natural power and length to go through the OL.

While Allen’s technical repertoire of moves and counters is limited, he uses this limited set of familiar moves (rip, chop, and swat) to great effect, along with relentlessly active and accurate hands. To maximize his advantage against OTs overcompensating on the edge, Allen must fully develop his long arm, an inside counter (spin), and his speed-to-power conversion; once he thus completes his rapid development, he will generate pressure around, inside, and through the OL with dominant consistency. With his closing burst and nose for the football, Allen will convert these pressures into sacks and turnovers as efficiently as any defender in the league.

In summary, Allen offers immediate production and unsurpassed upside as a rusher who will beat pass-protection every which way.

  • Run Defense:

While most scouts agree that run defense is not Allen’s forte, Allen is no slouch against the run. With his natural strength and length, the tenacious Allen is improving at setting the edge; his active hands and athleticism allow him to stack, shed, and penetrate; once has has turned, he pursues the ball carrier like a heat-seeking missile. For NFL purposes, he profiles as an (eventual) plus run-defender who generally holds his ground and exploits gaps to disrupt the play.

As a former DE, White is quite enamored of Allen’s run defense and waxes most lyrical:

Allen’s arms looked pretty long on film...and he did a wonderful job of using those long arms to the fullest. He got full extension with them when he engaged with offensive linemen and tight ends...

That was a major key to him being able to consistently disengage off of blockers...He was always active with his hands, and he never stopped his feet. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw a time...when he just accepted the fact that he was blocked.

I was also particularly impressed with how Allen would get upfield when teams tried to run the ball right at him; then, after he had set the edge and forced the running back to turn upfield, he’d quickly fall back inside the blocker to make the tackle. That allowed him to make a bunch of plays in close proximity to the line of scrimmage.

Of his 20 non-sack tackles in [a span of four games], 12 of them came on plays where the runner gained two yards or fewer. That’s what I call a pretty damn good run defender.

...the truth is Allen was so productive against the run that I would’ve considered him a decent edge rush prospect even without his many other impressive abilities at the position.

Other evaluators provide more perspective, along with several grains of salt. Mead describes Allen as a solid edge-setter and block-shedder who flashes useful power, but excels in pursuit:

...when playing the backside on running plays he can chase down just about anyone.

...Against Georgia, lined up as the 5 technique on the left side. Quick hands up to the chest of the tackle able to get under him a bit. Outside leverage by linebacker Jordan Jones (#34) forces the runner back inside. Allen is able to disengage from 340 pound tackle Isaiah Wilson (#79) and make the tackle near the line of scrimmage.

...[Allen] has the ability to set the edge or stack and shed against the run.

Crabbs notes that Allen can anchor respectably, but defends the run most effectively as a penetrator; Allen’s range in pursuit and finishing explosion are noteworthy.

Most successful in a gap penetration role, is quick to step down and follow a pull, leading him to the mesh-point. Has the needed anchor to squat and set the edge, showing effective hand usage to pin down a block and locate the ball...

...Rangy player. Especially impressive in situations stacked on the second level and tasked with scraping along the LOS to fill. Effective pursuit player and shows suddenness to jump down into a gap as play develops....

Has superb mirroring skills in head up situations, can slide his feet and keep his pads framed on the ball carrier. Explosive finishing potential if sustaining forward momentum to the ball.

Marino harbors some worries about Allen’s “head up situations”...

Eyes are often in the backfield, causing his pad level to rise and the lack of leverage is detrimental to his ability to maintain his fit.

...but agrees with Crabbs that Allen is strongest as a penetrator and pursuer:

Not an ideal candidate to regularly be tasked with setting the edge against offensive tackles and has noticeably better success vs tight ends...Has most of his success defending the run slashing gaps and filtering through contact. Offers outstanding range to close down distances and make plays outside the numbers...

Needs to get strong in the lower half to be a more consistent edge-setter against offensive tackles.

Ledyard notes Allen’s improvement -- and need for continued growth -- as an block-shedder...

Has improved a lot at stacking-and-shedding, but will still get engulfed at times when he is caught unprepared.

...and his evaluation is consistent with his colleagues’ at The Draft Network...

Most of the time fires hands to chest and gains early control of the rep...can do a better job keeping his outside shoulder clean when setting the edge...will [not] re-set the line of scrimmage every play, but strong enough to get the job done 1v1 and fully capable in space as well.

Most of the time his form is good...not a big hitter in the run game, but gets runners on the ground.

...with one exception: a surprising concern with Allen’s lateral mobility:

Maybe a [bit] sluggish laterally...change of direction does seem surprisingly un-explosive for a guy with his athletic gifts, although overall movement skills remain smooth and fully capable.

Here, Ledyard’s concern overlaps with that of Zierlein, the “grouch” of the bunch. While Zierlein acknowledges Allen’s potential...

Possesses traits and tools to become strong edge-setter...Stalking speed and length to corral running backs in space

...he is disappointed in Allen’s current product, including some “sluggishness” to turn in pursuit. Oddly, this sluggishness is markedly absent when Allen is rushing the passer. Zierlein’s evaluation highlights the lowlights of Allen’s run defense, which Allen must (and will) eventually improve.

Needs to impose will on tight ends at point of attack...undisciplined with contain duties...freelances inside, allowing himself to get sealed...linear pursuit and sluggish with change of direction and turns

While most are not as bullish as White, neither are they as pessimistic as Zierlein. There is ample cause for measured optimism. If he continues his development arc, Allen will be an occasional liability in setting the edge, but he will compensate with disruption behind the line of scrimmage and pursuit beyond it.

  • Pass Coverage:

Speaking of pursuit, when was the last time you saw a game-breaking pass rusher do this from the EDGE?

Allen has one special “edge” over the other top EDGE prospects: he is a true defensive weapon in coverage. To quote White, “[Allen] looked so natural and fluid in his [coverage] drops that he damn near looked like a big safety at times.” While Allen lacks the savvy of a veteran CB, he is remarkably comfortable in space; his fluid athleticism can stifle most RBs and TEs in man coverage downfield, and he has the instincts of a playmaking zone defender.

White radiates awe at Allen’s impact in coverage...

I have to say, watching him in coverage actually made me ponder if he would be better as an off-the-ball linebacker who blitzes from time to time, rather than a full-time edge rusher.

...and (for an EDGE) it’s hard to blame him:

Allen...was as big of a factor in the passing defense [as in the pass rush] at times when he dropped, helping to prevent some throws from even being attempted.

...in the waning moments of Kentucky’s upset against [the University of] Florida, Allen was a backside defender and when he saw Florida running a rollout away from him, he momentarily let his guard down and a Gators receiver running a shallow crosser blew right by him. But [Allen] wheeled around and recovered just enough to put himself in position to jump up and tip the pass high enough [to be uncatchable inbounds].

There are college defensive backs who would’ve had trouble trying to make the same play.

Heck, let’s watch that again!

Indeed, White notes that Kentucky used Allen in coverage with impunity:

One play he might be out jamming the slot receiver, the next he might be buzzing the flat to help double-team a wide receiver by undercutting his routes, and the play after that he might line up out on the wide receiver and jam him before floating over to his actual coverage responsibility.

The hype is borne out by consensus. According to Mead,

[Allen is] able to transfer from pass rush to coverage smoothly...

...He’s an every down defender who can cover tight ends and running backs.

Marino believes Allen has already proven himself, but can reach even greater heights as his coverage landmarks become intuitive and he is free to focus on all routes in his zone (without such occasional lapses as, say, the one he redeemed against Florida).

Effective dropping into coverage... ...Range in coverage drops is wonderful but will sometimes miss a route to his zone because he is so focused on reaching his landmarks. ...Allen has already proven his ability...dropping into coverage.

Crabbs concurs, and his description of Allen’s ball skills would make Bradley Fletcher green with envy:

Fluid hips are showcased...when [tasked] with flipping to turn and run in pass coverage.

Comfortable turning and running with receivers down the field and successfully gets eyes back to locate the football. Doesn’t have a great feel for routes peeling around him in peripherals. Legit ability to play in space.

Even Zierlein gives his grudging stamp of approval:

Adequate fluidity in zone coverage

Able to mark tight ends downfield in man coverage

In conclusion, Allen will enter the league as arguably the best (legit) EDGE rusher in coverage (excluding unproductive rushers, like Darron Lee of the New York Jets). When he is not pressuring QBs, Allen will still be robbing them of throwing windows and mismatch opportunities. If Allen refines his landmark traversal and reaches his ceiling in coverage, he could very well reinvent the EDGE position in a passing league.

  • Intangibles:

In his personal profile of Josh Allen, Chase Goodbread of NFL.com describes a young man of admirable character. It’s a worthy read, and Allen is a worthy protagonist. Allen struggled with and overcame a speech impediment, only to battle through undiagnosed ADHD. In high school, he took the football field at a mere 130 lbs., and promptly endured hazing and physical abuse -- some of it corporal punishment for grades dragged down by the ADHD. With the support of his parents (and a growth spurt), Allen stuck with the sport and churned out 22.5 sacks in 2014, his first year as a DE.

However, Allen grew from boy to man at Kentucky. In the spring of 2017, Allen learned from his girlfriend Kaitlyn Brooke that he was to be a father. In preparation for fatherhood, he cultivated the life advice of fathers among the coaching staff, and mulled his mid-round draft projection. “Mid-round money is a temptation that can weigh heavily on an expectant father”, observes Goodbread, but Allen bet on his gritty self and returned to Kentucky for his senior year.

Linebackers coach Brad White had worked with NFL greats like Robert Mathis, and he challenged the speedy Allen to become tougher against the run, start converting speed to power, and start developing inside moves. “‘The knock on him was that he played with too much finesse. He would jump around blocks and played like a bulk-deficient player,’ [said Senior Bowl executive director Jim] Nagy. ‘Now he’s a different guy.’”

Josh Allen’s meteoric rise, from scrawny outcast to coveted NFL prospect, displays a mentality that galvanizes a locker room. Crabbs observes that Allen “is the clear leader of his defense and offers the effort to back it up.” Allen is uncommonly determined. He is keenly conscious of his responsibilities to others, his young family above all. He is mature enough to seek out guidance. And he is both deliberate and startlingly adept in applying that guidance. There is no doubt in my mind that, absent disastrous coaching, Allen will soon attain his spectacular ceiling and can elevate an NFL franchise, just as he vaulted Kentucky from irrelevance to contention.

Allen’s play reflects this maturity, determination, and upward trajectory. Per Marino, Allen “has been tasked with numerous responsibilities and performs admirably”. As Stephen White observed,

[on one] play [Allen] might be out jamming the slot receiver, the next he might be buzzing the flat to help double-team a wide receiver by undercutting his routes, and the play after that he might line up out on the wide receiver and jam him before floating over to his actual coverage responsibility.

Indeed, Allen embraced and thrived with greater challenges and responsibility -- an unmistakable mark of maturity. While Allen is still young, and his football processing is still maturing, his tape supports Stephen White’s belief that “appears to have a pretty high football IQ”. Likewise, Mead praises Allen’s awareness; to wit, he describes Allen playing

against Florida, out in the slot, head up over TE C’yontai Lewis (#80). With eyes in the backfield, he reads the play, mirroring the receivers movement and explodes upfield and through the would-be blocker to force the incomplete pass.

Still, there will be growing pains. Allen’s vision and diagnostic skills are still catching up. Marino observes that Allen is

...definitely still developing as a mental processor from snap-to-whistle, was a beat slow to find the ball and attack his gap when playing off the ball...Needs to process quicker and step down when unblocked on the edge.

Marino diagnoses further:

Leaves some meat on the bone because he hasn’t fully developed his vision to read the blockers set and take advantage...will sometimes miss a route to his zone because he is so focused on reaching his landmarks. Does well to remain square as a backside run defender.

Some battles are won not by smarts but rather by toughness. While Allen is by no means Chuck Bednarik, he has consciously rid himself of the “finesse” label. “He was pretty damn physical when the situation called for it,” says Stephen White. Allen does indeed offer the effort to back up his leadership role, though Ledyard clarifies:

He plays a ton of snaps and he plays most of them very hard, but every so often he’ll take one off. His style of play is not overly physical, nor is physicality a concern. As he’s gotten stronger, his desire to grind out tough reps in the trenches has grown as well.

”In 51 career games as a Wildcat,” notes Ledyard, “Allen never failed to suit up, beginning his career as a special teams demon and ending it as the face of the program’s impressive rise.” This is the final intangible that Allen brings to the table: durability, the proverbial “best ability”. No prospect is invincible, and injuries -- nagging or catastrophic -- are often the difference between superstar and bust. Along with his precocious maturity, mental aptitude for the game, and toughness, Allen’s health is reassurance that he will attain his full potential and become the face of his unit for years to come.

The Comp

Josh Allen is a tremendously athletic and versatile EDGE who profiles as either (1) a deadly edge-rusher, or (2) an impact, off-the-ball coverage LB with tremendous blitzing ability. For such a LB who lives on the edge, and is as proficient in coverage as he is rushing the passer, the best comparison is Anthony Barr. Stephen White concurs...

I remember when Anthony Barr was coming out and I wasn’t sure whether he would be an edge rusher or an off-the-ball linebacker either, although I was leaning more toward edge rusher. Then the Vikings ended up taking him in the first round and making him into an off-the-ball linebacker after all...Allen looks even more natural in coverage than Barr did to me, so I absolutely do think he could be used in a similar fashion on the next level.

...as does Zierlein...

NFL Comparison

Anthony Barr

...but Allen’s “edge” over Barr is this: Allen has legitimate promise as a DE, with game-wrecking speed and bend from a three-point stance. As such, Allen can threaten the quarterback in one more way and provide more positional versatility. Thus, Allen could certainly prove more valuable and reach a higher ceiling.

The Fit

The Raiders are not a perfect fit for Allen. However, there is no better match for the Raiders at 4th overall. Since Gruden outsmarted himself by trading away EDGE Khalil Mack, the position has been so abysmal for the team as to be a running joke within the Oakland front office. “Jon [Gruden] tells me every day, it’s just [2018 rookie] Arden Key and me,” [general manager Mike Mayock] said [publically]. That’s no exaggeration: after the EDGE position gave Oakland a pitiful 13 sacks in 2018, only two EDGE players (Key and Josh Mauro) remain on the entire roster!

Yes, you read that correctly: as of one week ago, the Raiders have exactly two EDGE players on their entire roster!

Not only has the lack of edge pressure wasted the talents of breakout rookie iDL Maurice Hurst, but it has also created a negative feedback loop with one of the league’s most porous pass defenses. While Allen lacks the raw power and advanced rushing arsenal of a rookie Mack, Allen’s elite speed rush and unique coverage abilities will bolster both Oakland’s pass rush and also its pass defense. Furthermore, Allen’s presence will open up opportunities for Hurst and Key in a symbiotic relationship lacking only Allen as the catalyst.

Admittedly, Allen would fit like a glove as a stand-up OLB (with proportionate responsibilities in pass rushing or in coverage) in the 3-4 alignments deployed by the Buccaneers (picking at 5th overall, with needs at both cover LB and EDGE after the Kwon Alexander’s departure) and Jets (picking at 3rd overall, with a need at EDGE after Anthony Barr pulled a Frank Gore). Zierlein believes that “[Allen’s] NFL value will rest in his ability to menace the pocket as 3-4 rush linebacker”. As such, a prototypical 4-3 defense would be suboptimal for Allen.

However, the front deployed by Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenthner is only nominally “4-3”, with “14 different D-line fronts” and 19 blitzes out of “odd” fronts; these can be mixed and matched with a dizzying array of other defensive elements. Guenther also heavily deploys the zone coverages in which Allen excels. As such, the Oakland’s defense does closely match Marino’s description of Allen’s ideal landing spot:

Allen has already proven his ability to function with his hand in the dirt, as a stand up edge and dropping into coverage[,] making him a scheme-versatile defender that would thrive in a defensive front that is multiple.

Furthermore, Stephen White believes that Allen could thrive in any scheme under any staff, even from a three-point stance as a DE in a nominal 4-3 defense:

...he would also be a viable option as a 4-3 defensive end with his hand in the ground rather than a two-point stance. Talk about an excellent chess piece for a competent defensive coordinator!

I personally feel like he has the potential to be great whether he is an edge rusher or an-off the-ball linebacker. It’s just a matter of putting him in positions to succeed wherever he lines up...with his skillset a team would almost have to go out of its way to ruin Allen for him not to be successful on the field.

Realistically after watching his film, I’m not even sure a terrible team could do that.

It’s worth noting that, Antonio Brown notwithstanding, the Raiders are a terrible team. A talent like Josh Allen would immediately change that.

However, Gruden is not just about talent. As indicated by Gruden’s trade of a generational talent in Mack, not to mention Gruden’s lavish signing of mediocre OT Trent Brown, Gruden is willing to (calamitously) overlook talent and value in order to build a team of his guys: “Gruden grinders”.

”I just like guys who love to play,” Gruden told [ESPN writer Paul Gutierrez in 2018]. “Guys that will compete. Guys that will play for nothing. We haven’t signed a lot of household names around the league, but we, I think, have brought in guys that are going to be consistent, everyday grinders, man. Guys that are going to compete their ass off and fight for inches and know what to do and set a tone.

Over at Fansided, Joey Bates writes about the implications of three significant personnel moves by Gruden:

The top 3 [Raiders] acquisitions of this offseason...are offensive tackle Trent Brown and wide receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. These men are symbolic of what you would call a Gruden Grinder.

They are a 7th round pick, a 6th round pick, and an undrafted free agent, respectively. These three men have had to work for what they have in the NFL, and have become great players at their respective positions.

If that last sentences do not describe Josh Allen, nothing does -- and Gruden knows it.

To wit, the Raiders have shown intense pre-draft interest in Allen. The evening before Kentucky’s pro day, Allen dined with Mayock and Raiders Defensive assistant Jim O’Neil. Next morning, Mayock naturally attended Allen’s pro day itself. For the Raiders, it’s likely an unspoken but obvious truth: Josh Allen’s scintillating talent is a perfect match with their glaring need. Even better, Allen will likely hit his peak (still on his rookie contract) in a few years, once the rest of the roster has finally been rebuilt: the team’s window of competitiveness can accommodate Allen’s growing pains and reap his upside.

Still, the specter of QB controversy hovers over the Oakland Coliseum. Until that position is settled, all other needs are peripheral. On the one hand, Bates suggests that Gruden’s offseason moves solidify Derek Carr as Oakland’s handsomely paid franchise QB.

...these moves seem to indicate that the Raiders believe what happened last season, particularly with Derek Carr, wasn’t a regression, but a step in the right direction.

The acquisitions...[give] Derek Carr the best offseason he’s had since his rookie year. It could be argued that Brown and Williams could be the best two wide receivers Carr has ever thrown to, and Trent Brown could be the young Donald Penn that solidifies his offensive line.

Derek Carr...should be very happy with these signings.

Yet while Gruden gave Carr his obligatory endorsement early last month, Gruden is reportedly smitten with Kyler Murray and shopping Carr (a former Pro-Bowler). Stirring the pot, Carr is apparently throwing shade at the Raiders organization after it recently set up private workouts for top QB prospects Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins. With the draft in four weeks, Gruden will have to decide in a hurry if Carr is the franchise QB around whom a contender can be built.

However, Gruden’s problem is not my problem. Since I am drafting for the Raiders, I need not predict the decision of a man who thought Johnny Manziel a franchise savior and Khalil Mack comparable to Sio Moore. With Murray off the board, and with the opportunity to bring in an indisputable fit rather than play QB politics, I take Josh Allen, who is easily BPA at the greatest position of need. The instant transformational impact is the main attraction; the dizzying upside is the cherry on top.

The Value

I’ll admit: I was giddy with delight when Josh Allen fell to me at 4th overall. Allen should go at 3rd overall to the Jets (the brilliance of DT Quinnen Williams notwithstanding). However, with this studly class of pass rushers, the selection of a single QB (say, Kyler Murray to the Arizona Cardinals at 1st overall) will cause a pass rusher to tumble (Bosa, Williams, or Allen) who has no business leaving the top 3. Indeed, Allen would be the consensus 1st overall pick in almost any other draft, barring QB dynamics.

With Murray off the board, Haskins and other QB prospects are hardly slam-dunk playmakers like Josh Allen at EDGE. The opportunity to draft such a talented EDGE rusher is so rare than only teams truly desperate for a young QB can afford to refuse said opportunity: based on market value, position scarcity and resource scarcity alone make Allen a worthy pick. Allen’s sheer talent and upside, along with the positional impact of EDGE (second only to QB), make Allen a twice-worthy pick. Finally, the Raiders’ veritable “black hole” at EDGE makes this pick as thrice-worthy as it is necessary.

The value is excellent. Don’t overthink it.

Other Prospects Considered

As I was drafting for the Raiders, Josh Allen was the only player remaining in my top tier of immediate contributors at impact positions, with solid floors, elite ceilings, complete skillsets, and a gift for gamebreaking plays.

If I were drafting as the Raiders, I would have put on my Gruden Goggles and looked seriously at: Montez Sweat (DE, Mississippi State), due to need, combine hype, and scheme fit; Devin White (ILB, LSU), due to need and combine hype; Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State), due to need and wishful thinking; and Greedy Williams (CB, LSU), due to need, combine hype, and ball skills.

If I were setting the draft board as myself (SisyphusNoMore) yet drafting as Gruden, I would have strongly considered Brian Burns (DE, Florida State), due to need, scheme fit, and talent: pure speed and absurd flexibility off the edge, along with a highly diverse and refined arsenal of moves and counters.

Poll

Do you approve of this pick?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    Yes
    (237 votes)
  • 12%
    No
    (35 votes)
272 votes total Vote Now

2019 BGN Mock Draft Order

1) Cardinals (Philliesandthebees): Kyler Murray

2) 49ers (SakPrescott): Nick Bosa

3) Jets (thealien2696): Quinnen Williams

4) Raiders (SisyphusNoMore): Josh Allen

5) Buccaneers (EAGLESBSU):

6) Giants (ablesser88):

7) Jaguars (20Safety_Hazards):

8) Lions (89Tremaine):

9) Bills (drc242):

10) Broncos (ItownBallers22):

11) Bengals (Phoenix X Maximus):

12) Packers (Palaniappan K M)

13) Bengals (wildcatlh):

14) Falcons (Happy24):

15) Washington (roberticus0):

16) Panthers (Triumph McCloud):

17) Giants (KevinDont):

18) Vikings (Eagles701):

19) Titans (Big Schmoopie):

20) Steelers (J. Wil):

21) Seahawks (NickfoleonDynamite):

22) Ravens (GMinTraining):

23) Texans (EaglesRock94)

24) Raiders (SummersInVA):

25) Eagles (I Need a Username):

26) Colts (Nolo0oo):

27) Raiders (SLC Eagle):

28) Chargers (LBCeaglesFan!):

29) Chiefs (Boxer Madness):

30) Packers (Kephas):

31) Rams (Matthieuck):

32) Patriots (Zett_66):


Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think the Raiders should pick in the 2019 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft.

Poll

Who should the Oakland Raiders draft at No. 4 overall?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    Josh Allen
    (146 votes)
  • 4%
    Devin White
    (8 votes)
  • 2%
    Brian Burns
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Rashan Gary
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Clelin Ferrell
    (0 votes)
  • 7%
    Ed Oliver
    (13 votes)
  • 1%
    Dwayne Haskins
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    Drew Lock
    (4 votes)
183 votes total Vote Now

2019 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft

1) Cardinals: Kyler Murray

2) 49ers: Nick Bosa

3) Jets: Quinnen Williams

4) Raiders: