Intro: Allen is a player I have had my eye on since early in his freshman year at Cal and he has done nothing but impress me ever since. Despite not having a great quarterback during any of his three seasons at Cal Allen has always shown up in big games, even against teams that were more talented that Cal was. For instance, in three career games against USC Allen has 26 receptions, 314 yards and 1 touchdown. Last season he had 9 catches, 170 yards and 1 touchdown against Oregon, 6 catches for 97 yards and 1 touchdown against Stanford and 9 catches for 82 yards against Texas. This year he had two consecutive 9 catch games against Ohio State and USC for 80 and 93 yards respectively. He’s the best draft eligible receiver in the country without a doubt in my mind. So without further adieu, here is my scouting report on Keenan Allen.
Size: Allen has ideal size for a receiver. He’s listed at 6’3”, 210 and while he looks a bit slender on film he is strong, can run through arm tackles and is physical when he plays. He’s not a finesse receiver by any means and doesn’t shy away from going over the middle, making catches in traffic and finishes plays strong when he has the ball in his hands.
Speed: Allen has a “listed” 40 yard dash time of 4.52 but he looks like a guy who will run in the 4.4’s to me without a doubt. Whether he does that or not he clearly has NFL speed at receiver and will be able to threaten teams deep. He may not run a 4.4 flat, but he clearly has an extra gear that allows him to threaten defenses vertically. He’s dangerous after the catch because of his speed as well, and isn’t a build-up speed guy like lots of 6’3”+ wide receivers are. He has good acceleration and it is clear to me that he has NFL speed regardless of what he runs at the combine or at his pro day.
Quickness: This is one of Allen’s many strengths. He is so shifty and has so much burst that it makes him a dynamic route runner and a dynamic player with the ball in his hands. He can make guys miss in the open field with his quickness, and he can keep defenders off balance with it when he is running routes. He has very impressive burst and change of direction speed for a wide receiver his size and it’s part of what makes him so special.
Release: Because he is so dangerous Allen doesn’t often get pressed at the line of scrimmage but when he has he has shown that he can beat it since he was a freshman. He got better at it last season (watch the Stanford game from 2011 if you want a few examples of him beating press coverage) and continues to make defenders regret trying to jam him in 2012. Is he elite at this? No, but he is physical enough, strong enough and quick enough to beat college level jams easily. I think he will have no problem getting the release he wants in the NFL, and he has looked like a NFL receiver since he was a sophomore releasing against press coverage.
Route Running: This is another one of Allen’s strengths. Watching him from a freshman to now this is definitely something he has worked on and noticeably improved on. Even last year he was still not running crisp routes consistently enough and it forced him to make more contested catches in part because he wasn’t creating quite as much separation and because Maynard wasn’t throwing accurate, on time passes. But I think he has developed into a very impressive route runner with a full route tree. He can create separation running any route, he does a great job of feeling holes in zone coverage and sitting down in them, he does a great job of working to the sticks on 3rd and 4th down and that is one of many reasons why he is constantly targeted when Cal needs a conversion. He also shows a good feel for making catches near the sideline, though he doesn’t often get those chances since the passes are usually too far out of bounds or thrown late. But that is something I would expect to see more of at the next level, as he has shown that he can make those difficult catches when I’ve watched him.
Hands: Allen has very good hands. He does have concentration lapses at times which is one of the only things that concerns me about him, but every receiver drops passes at times. What impressed me is that even when he takes his eye off the ball and drops a pass he is ready to make a play the next time the ball comes to him even if it’s on the next snap. That kind of mental toughness is something that I love to see in any football player, but it is certainly present in Allen’s game. Aside from that, there’s not much else you can say about Allen’s hands besides the fact that he consistently makes difficult catches look easy, he routinely catches passes that are high, behind him or low because of Maynard’s inconsistent accuracy, and he has shown time and time again that he can catch passes in traffic, outside of his frame or while his body is contorted in the air. Allen may drop a pass, usually one a game I think, but he is extremely reliable on critical downs and does a great job making big catches to move the chains for Cal.
Body Control: Allen’s body control is excellent. Whether it is contorting himself in the air to make a difficult catch on a ball underthrown or behind him, toe-tapping on passes along the sideline or making defenders miss after the catch Allen clearly is an impressive athlete with great body control. He’s going to make some impressive catches as a rookie, especially once he gets even more catchable balls thrown his way.
In Traffic: Like any receiver, if you hit him hard enough right after the ball gets there he will drop a pass at times. He’s not perfect, but he is very reliable in traffic. This is due to his very good hands, his toughness and willingness to go over the middle, his ability to use his frame to shield defenders from the ball and his ability to catch passes outside of his frame. That means you can throw to him in traffic and even with a defender in his hip pocket or draped over him he can make the contested catch. He’s shown the ability to do that time and time again at Cal.
YAC: You might not expect a 6’3” 210 pound receiver to be great after the catch but Allen definitely is. They run at least a few screens a game to him (bubble, tunnel, etc) as well as on slant routes to try to get him the ball in the open field as much as possible. He’s very shifty, he has great vision as a ball carrier and he doesn’t dance too much in the open field despite his ability to make guys miss. He makes one move or one cut and gets north and south to gain yardage. Not only that, but his strength shows up here as well when defenders slide off of him while they try to tackle him in the open field. He may not look like it, but he’s strong and he’s tough to bring down in the open field because of his combination of size, speed and strength. He’s not afraid to lower his shoulder, hurdle or dive over defenders to get extra yardage either. He’s definitely going to be a run after catch threat in the NFL from day one.
Blocking: This is one thing that I haven’t gotten a great feel for in Allen’s game. I’ve been watching him for three years now, but despite giving a solid effort blocking I don’t think he’s a great blocker by any means. This is definitely something I think he can improve on at the next level, and without having inside information about his work ethic I perceive that he has a good work ethic based on his progression from his freshman year to now. That makes me think that his blocking will trend up once he gets to the NFL and gets better coaching.
Overall: Obviously I am a big Keenan Allen fan. He is my #1 ranked WR for the 2013 NFL Draft class and barring injury or arrest I don’t think that is going to change from now until April. I’ve thought he would be a 1st round draft pick from the first time that I watched him and that hasn’t changed as he has only gotten better since then. He’s got everything you could want in a receiver from his 6’3” size, to his speed, quickness, route running, hands and run after catch ability. He’s going to be a pro bowler at the next level and possible an All-Pro if he continues to improve (which I expect he will). Plenty of people have figured out that Allen is a top talent, and I think he is a top 15 lock for the 2013 NFL Draft should he declare. Not only that, but without talking to him or those around the Cal program, Allen really seems to want to win. He plays hard even when the game is out of reach, he gives great effort consistently and just really seems to care to me. I think that’s important, and I think Allen is an example of a kid who is a winner even though he hasn’t played on a team anyone would distinguish as “great” during his three years at Cal. I think that characteristic will shine through in his interviews with teams, and it’s just another reason why I’d love to have him on my team if I was a NFL talent evaluator.
Projection: Top 10. I think he is a top 15 lock, but I really think he has a shot to crack the top 10. He’s a special receiver and I would pick him in the top 10 without a single hesitation.