We’re getting closer. It's almost here everyone: The NFL Draft is next week!
As the draft inches closer, it seems like the Jaguars will be selecting between three prospects: Jonathan Allen, Leonard Fournette, or Solomon Thomas. This isn't speaking in absolutes, as I don’t have that kind of insight in the organization to know if there is a "dark horse” prospect, but these three players have been the consensus picks in terms of mock drafts and draft hype.
Therefore, it's time we make a case for and against the Jaguars selecting Allen, Fournette, or Thomas. Each player offers different traits and skills, but all are considered as top 10 picks, and should improve any team they are drafted by.
Today, we will focus on Allen, the former Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman.
Why the Jaguars should draft Allen
Allen is a high floor prospect with tape to prove any doubters wrong (you can check my film review on Allen out here).
The Jaguars biggest need behind offensive line — a need the Jaguars will need to address later on with no offensive linemen worth a top 5, maybe even top 10 pick in this draft — is defensive end. The team needs to build a nasty pass rush, and although they’re on their way to doing so with Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, Abry Jones, and newly-signed Calais Campbell on the defensive line, they still need a young stud pass rusher to play strong-side defensive end in a rotation with Campbell — One that will one day take over as full-time SDE when Campbell is too old to make a consistent impact (he turns 31 before the 2017 regular season starts).
Campbell is a hell of a player, no question. He’s coming off of an eight sack season and has recorded 56.5 sacks in his nine year career. However, as I pointed out, he turns 31 in September. He’s going into his tenth season in the NFL.
This is not me saying that he won’t be effective, as I have no doubt he will be a consistent contributor to the pass rush for the next couple of seasons, but to rely on a 31 year old pass rusher as a primary starter is silly.
Rookie pass rushers are normally never the best at their position out the gate, and rather need time to adjust and develop into a dominant NFL player — even prospects with high floors like Allen. Well, Jacksonville offers the perfect scenario for a player like Allen to develop into a star in rotating with Campbell at SDE and even taking reps as a defensive tackle from time to time, without putting much wear and tear on both his and Campbell’s body. When Campbell’s age catches up to him (say, in two or so seasons), Allen can take over as the full time SDE.
Allen recorded 28 sacks and 44.5 tackles for loss at Alabama — he was a consistent disruption in both the pass and run game. Not only did he put up great numbers, but he’s a clean player mechanically. His hand usage is nasty, he knows how to combat and beat blocks, and for a 6-3, 286 lb lineman, the dude is quick off of the blocks to get to the ball.
When Tom Coughlin was the head coach of the Jaguars, he maintained a nasty pass rush that averaged 38.25 sacks a year, including 57 sacks during the 1999 season alone (the year the Jaguars advanced to the AFC Conference Championship for the second time in team history). As head coach of the New York Giants (2004-2015), their pass rush averaged 39.25 sacks a year. Adding a defensive end like Allen will only help the Jaguars put up sack numbers similar to these past averages.
You know the old saying, “Defense wins championships”? Tom Coughlin knows that. He’s won two Super Bowls while hosting an elite defense (the Giants had 53 sacks the season they won Super Bowl 42, and 48 sacks the season they won Super Bowl 46).
The most basic logic in the Jaguars drafting Jonathan Allen is that he would be an immediate and likely (barring injury) long-term impact player at strong side defensive end, which is something the Jaguars need to address: The pick would make perfect sense.
Why the Jaguars shouldn’t draft Allen
I honestly can’t think of much reasoning for the Jaguars to not draft Jonathan Allen, unless somehow Myles Garrett fell to the 4th overall pick, but being realistic, there’s about a 0.01% chance that happens.
The only concern to be had with Allen, in my opinion, is his shoulder injury history, and even with that I would base my concerns on how the team views the seriousness of them.
Allen has been diagnosed with arthritis in his left shoulder, but has never been limited by it and has been told by doctors that it shouldn’t affect him for at least 15-20 years from now. Unless Allen is a miracle man as a defensive lineman, his career should be over by that time.
While players may make statements like that just to sound convincing, I believe Allen in this case. He hasn’t missed a game since taking on a full time role at Alabama in 2014, and won the Chuck Bednarik Award (given to the best defensive player in college football) in 2016 during his senior season.
As I said before, I’m going to trust the Jaguars’ assessment on his shoulders. Last year, the Jaguars flagged Shaq Lawson before the draft for his injury history, and what do you know, he went on to miss nearly half of his rookie season. They didn’t to flag Myles Jack for his injury concerns, went on to draft him in the second round when he fell in the draft, and what do you know, Jack never missed a snap due to injury in 2016.
If the Jaguars flag Allen for his shoulders before the draft, then I understand why they would pass on him. If they don’t, then I think he’s the perfect pick.
Jonathan Allen is the one player I’m praying the Jaguars select with the 4th overall pick. He’s a leader as a teammate and a high floor, productive defensive lineman that gives the Jaguars another pass rushing threat alongside Ngakoue, Jackson, Jones, and Campbell. With those four, Allen, plus whatever the team is able to get out of Dante Fowler Jr. if he improves in 2017 (my expectations are low, but my seemingly irrational hopes are high), rushing the passer, the Jaguars could suddenly have a top notch pass rush.
Defense wins championships. And what’s a great defense without a great pass rush? “Building the trenches” is incredibly important for NFL teams, and in drafting Jonathan Allen, the Jaguars can truly build a great defensive trench.