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A three-year starter in Alabama's 3-4 base defense, Allen was schemed inside and outside in the Tide's multiple fronts, lining up primarily as a base end before kicking inside on passing downs. His role and impact has expanded in each of the last three seasons.
"His diversity to play outside, rush inside, play the point, makes him a pretty special guy," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "We want more players like Jonathan Allen."
A five-star defensive end recruit out of high school, spent his true freshman season as a back-up in all 13 games, recording 16 tackles and 3.0 tackles for loss. Allen worked his way into the starting rotation as a sophomore in 2014, finishing with 33 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. His role expanded as a junior (11 starts) with a team-best 14.5 tackles for loss and 12.0 sacks, adding 36 tackles and two forced fumbles to earn First Team All-SEC honors.
Projected as an early first-round pick, Allen passed on the NFL to return to Tuscaloosa in 2016 and had his best season with 69 tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks and was awarded unanimous All-American and First Team All-SEC honors. He also took home the Bronko Nagurski (Best defensive player), Chuck Bednarik (Best defensive player) and Ted Hendricks (Best defensive end) Awards and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year -- also finished seventh in the 2016 Heisman Trophy voting (highest finish for an Alabama defensive player since 1962).
Allen isn't a sudden rusher who screams off the edge, but is a pass rush threat due to his powerful hands and punch to control the point of attack, giving himself options while reading the ball. He converts speed to power with contact balance and body control while also showing the lateral agility to knife through gaps and out-leverage blockers. Allen has scheme-diverse ability and will benefit from a creative defensive coordinator who moves him around and doesn't just leave him on the edge, similar to how the Seattle Seahawks use Michael Bennett. Allen is one of the most talented prospects in the 2017 draft class and deserving of top-three overall consideration if the medicals (shoulder) check out.
STRENGTHS: Developed body mass and bulk. Powerful upper body to create movement or force his way through the shoulder of blockers. Strong hands to stack, track and shed with violence. Uses a variety of hand tactics, including terrific rip-pull technique to toss and accelerate past linemen. Physical limbs with his upper and lower halves in sync to unlock himself from blocks. Smooth hips to quickly redirect in pursuit without losing speed. Active on stunts with the agile lateral movements to skillfully cross the face of blockers. Outstanding closing burst for a player his size. Can dip his shoulder and bend due to lower body flexibility. Holds his ground vs. power with the backfield awareness to set the edge. Strikes with his entire body, driving his hips and finishing. Reliable competitive spirit and play speed. Unassuming approach to the game and takes the initiative to improve. Versatile experience and well-versed at multiple defensive line techniques, lining up inside and outside. Finishes his career ranked second in sacks (28.5) and fourth in tackles for loss (45.0) in Alabama history -- also scored twice as a senior on fumble recoveries (75-yard return and 30-yard return).
WEAKNESSES: Lacks ideal length for an edge player. Doesn't have a sudden initial move to consistently threaten the corner with speed. Developing snap anticipation and often late off the ball. Bad habit of rising off the snap and playing too high. Needs to better protect his lower body from cuts. Not an aggressive or creative pass rusher and is coached to play reactive at the snap. Needs to better set up his pass rush moves off the edge. Closes in a flash, but needs to better break down to finish in space. Will lack a natural position in some defensive schemes. Medicals need vetted due to a reoccurring left shoulder issue -- tore his rotator cuff (Oct. 2014), which required off-season surgery; reinjured the same shoulder and missed the second half vs. UL-Monroe (Sept. 2015), requiring off-season surgery (Jan. 2016) to repair a tear in his labrum, which limited him in the 2016 spring.
NFL COMPARISON: Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks: This comparison isn't so much about skillsets as it is roles in the NFL. Allen and Bennett are different types of players, but Allen is at his best when schemed up and down the defensive line to attack blockers from different angles, similar to how Seattle uses Bennett.