Josh Allen, OLB, 6-4, 246, 4.70 (40 yards), senior
Expectations for 2018
Another draft cycle and another prospect named Josh Allen worthy of NFL attention. Except this version isn't a quarterback from Wyoming. This Josh Allen plays in the SEC and is a versatile outside linebacker.
Kentucky utilizes a hybrid 3-4 scheme with only two or three down-linemen, allowing the linebackers to fly around the field. Entering his third season as a starter, Allen plays the "JACK" linebacker position (usually lined up on the field side of the formation), where he does a little bit of everything from rushing the passer to playing the run and even lining up over the slot receiver in coverage.
Similar to the Buffalo Bills' first-round quarterback, Allen has intriguing physical traits, but is rough around the edges and his draft projection is largely based on potential. While he might have been a top-100 draft pick if he left school early, Allen made the wise choice to return for his final season of eligibility. He looked bigger, faster and stronger during spring practice, and another season of seasoning could prove significant for his NFL future.
Although he probably won't go top 10 like the 2018 NFL Draft's Allen, the 2019 NFL Draft Josh Allen could make an Haason Reddick-like ascension into the first-round conversation if he makes the necessary improvements as a senior.
What the 2017 tape says
After studying the Kentucky defense, the obvious takeaway is Allen's versatility and what it means to the Wildcats' game plan. Lining up primarily on the field side of the formation, Allen's responsibilities change on every snap, depending on the situation. While his athleticism is evident, so is his lack of polish.
When dropping in coverage, Allen has a chance to show off his rangy athleticism, floating into zones or shadowing the slot receiver. He stays glued on the eyes of the quarterback, but that causes him to lose the receiver at times as his cover athleticism is much better than his cover instincts right now.
As a pass rusher, Allen has the initial quickness to threaten the corner and his edge speed can create issues in the backfield. However, he needs to win with quickness because he lacks the functional power or technique to skirt NFL-level offensive tackles. Until he learns how to covert his speed to power or add more to his bag of tricks, Allen will be more of a blitzer than true edge rusher.
Against the run, Allen rallies to the football with excellent pursuit speed. He is a smart player and sees the run develop at the snap. Allen is active to fight off blocks, but blockers can overwhelm him at the point of attack, turning him from the lane and cutting off his angle.
As you can tell, there is a common theme here.
Allen's versatile athleticism allows him to help in various ways, but he isn't above average in any of those areas due to his lack of power and polish. While his junior tape doesn't show a NFL pass rusher, Allen is hoping his senior tape forces NFL scouts to revisit that idea.
Allen, a two-star recruit who grew up in a basketball-focused family in New Jersey, started playing football after he moved to Alabama for high school. Although it wasn't love at first sight, he showed steady improvement in his first three seasons as a wide receiver before returning to Montclair, N.J., for his senior season of high school. With no prior defensive experience, Allen added pass rushing responsibilities (22.5 sacks in 2014) to his resume, which also opened doors in recruitment.
After initially committing to FCS-level Monmouth, Allen switched to Kentucky once the SEC program saw his potential on defense and offered him a full ride. He spent his true freshman season as a reserve before breaking into the starting lineup as a sophomore linebacker. Allen started all 13 games as a junior and led the Wildcats in tackles for loss (9.5) and sacks (seven), also forcing two fumbles.
Allen is looking to become the latest in his family to be drafted by a professional sports team. His uncle (Gregory Hines) ranks second in Hampton history in points scored and was a fifth-round NBA draft pick in 1983. Allen's sister (Myisha Hines-Allen) is the ACC's all-time leader in career double-doubles (45) and was recently selected in the first round of the 2018 WNBA Draft out of Louisville.