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NFL Draft Q&A: A Sea of Blue on first-round edge rusher Josh Allen

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

Let’s continue our post-draft Q&A series with the prospect that has Jacksonville Jaguars fans absolutely buzzing — Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen.

Allen was more or less a best case scenario for the Jaguars, as many did not expect him to still be on the board at No. 7 overall.

To learn more about Jacksonville first-round pick, I reached out to Jason Marcum, site manager of A Sea of Blue — SB Nation’s website for all things Kentucky Wildcats.

Here is what Jason had to say on the elite pass rusher:

1. Allen was considered by many analysts to be a top-three, or at the very least, top-five talent. Why do you think he fell to No. 7 overall, and do you believe that Jacksonville got a steal with him?

Jason: I blame, who gave Allen a 6.66 draft grade. Who the Hell does that (pun intended)? That number clearly scared teams off.

But in all seriousness, it was a major surprise to see Allen fall that far. Part of it was quarterbacks, where even average prospects (I feel like that’s being kind to Daniel Jones) will unfairly be prioritized over elite prospects at other positions.

Then there was the bigger need at DT for the Jets and a true 4-3 LB for the Bucs.

The real shocker was the Raiders taking Clelin Ferrell, who was widely regarded as a mid-to-late first-round prospect. No one I saw thought Ferrell was even going in the top 15, let alone No. 4. The only reasons that make sense are that Ferrell had a better overall college career and was a better run defender, so he may “seem” like a better prospect in terms of being able to play a 3-4 OLB or 4-3 DE. I think Allen needs some work to become a full-time 4-3 DE in the NFL, mostly because he needs to get better at shedding his blocks

All told, the Jaguars, to me, were the absolute perfect fit for Allen in terms of teams drafting in the top 10. They already have a great supporting cast on defense and just got a big upgrade at QB. They’re a very sneaky team going into the 2019 season, and Allen will only help ensure they have a major rebound season.

2. What kind of player is Jacksonville getting and what is the best way to use him? Jacksonville’s current base is the 4-3 defense, but it’s possible we can see a switch. What is the best way to use Allen — as a stand up rusher or a down lineman coming off of the edge?

Jason: Allen is a tremendous leader and will be a great locker-room presence for a team that simply didn’t have enough leadership last year. He’s also an elite pass rusher who will put the fear of God into offenses. He needs some work as a run defender, but I feel confident he’ll get there. He’s got the kind of drive that will ensure he becomes the best versions of himself sooner rather than later.

There’s no doubt his best role is as a 3-4 linebacker, especially since he covers well for a guy who primarily rushes the passer, but he can absolutely become a 4-3 DE in this league. I would expect the Jaguars to ease him in the way the Bengals did with Carl Lawson as a rookie. He was a tremendous pass-rusher who they did try to hide on run downs. Allen is a better run defender and won’t need to be hidden as much.

I do think we’ll see schemes where Allen lines up as the SAM backer since he can cover well enough and could still rush the passer from there.

3. Speaking of Allen’s pass-rush prowess, Jacksonville could have a “rush” package on passing downs that features Allen and Yannick Ngakoue off of the edge, with Calais Campbell and Marcel Dareus in the interior. Could you imagine the havoc this team may cause on opposing offenses? Do you think playing with players of this caliber will only help Allen to free up and succeed, or do you think he could get lost in the shuffle of elite players?

Jason: That goes back to why this is such a great situation for Allen and the Jaguars. That front seven could easily become the NFL’s best this year and wreak havoc on any offense. And he won’t get lost in the shuffle, either. He may not be a full-time player as a rookie, but at worst, he’ll have a 2017 Dante Fowler -type of role where he gets six-to-eight sacks and a lot of pressures, but doesn’t do much else.

Editor’s note: Jason made the Fowler comparison before realizing the next question is in regards to Fowler. Perfect segue.

4. Allen’s likely main job to start will be to rotate in and spell Ngakoue, and possibly even play strong-side linebacker in base packages. General manager Dave Caldwell has already stated that Allen was drafted to fill the role that Dante Fowler had before he was traded. Fowler never really panned out in Jacksonville, though. Obviously these are two very different players, but should fans have any concern that Allen may not live up to his high draft status, or do you believe he is the can’t miss prospect we were all hoping for?

No (there shouldn’t be any concerns). The only way Allen doesn’t live up to his potential is injury. As long as he stays healthy, he’ll reach his true potential and become a force for the Jaguars. I do think his role as a rookie will be similar to what Fowler has been most of his career, but he just never had the drive to become the player he was meant to be. Allen has that, so I wouldn’t worry about him being a bust.

5. Allen was only a two-star recruit coming out of high school in 2015. How was he able to ascend into the player he is today — a consensus first-team All-American and UK’s all-time leader in career sacks (31.5) and single season sacks (17)?

Allen is the definition of earned, not given. Everything he’s accomplished has been thanks to his work ethic and drive to be the best he can be. A big part of it, though, was he was an all-state wide receiver in high school and didn’t move to defense until his senior season after he transferred from Alabama to New Jersey. That led to him getting little recruiting interest, but UK took a chance on him, and he made the most of it. He was a great athlete that UK thought they could develop into an impact player in the SEC, but no one saw Allen becoming the player he is today.

6. Anything else we need to know about the Kentucky star?

Jacksonville is absolutely going to fall in love with Allen. He’s everything you want from a player on and off the field.

A huge thank you to Jason for providing great insights into Josh Allen. You can catch Jason on Twitter, and be sure to give a Sea of Blue a follow as well.

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