I’ll be doing comprehensive scouting reports on each of the Jacksonville Jaguars draft selections from now up until OTAs.
First up is the first pick — Kentucky defensive end and linebacker Josh Allen.
Background and character
Allen was an overlooked two-star recruit who only had one offer from FCS school Monmouth University in New Jersey before Mark Stoops and Kentucky swooped in late in the process to offer him. After arriving on campus at UK at 208 pounds, Allen has become a self-made prospect, working his way to becoming one of the most fearsome and productive pass rushers in the SEC and earning team captain honors in 2018.
One of six children, Allen grew up under-privileged in Montclair, New Jersey and once got sent home from school for hygiene issues as Allen didn’t have hot water leftover being the youngest of his siblings to take regular showers. Allen would also come home crying after being bullied for having a speech impediment and had to work hard to overcome a stuttering problem in his youth to get to where he is today.
He was made fun of growing up.— Coy Wire (@CoyWire) November 3, 2018
He went home crying at times.@JoshAllen41_ faced challenges being underprivileged with a speech impediment, but turned his pain into power. One of the best players in the nation stars for @UKFootball facing Georgia today.@UKAthletics @WeekendExp pic.twitter.com/3I2QmvJuQz
If you really need more convincing about what type of guy Allen is, take a look at the mentions from the above tweet from all the people that Allen touched directly and indirectly as a role model at Kentucky. Those glowing reviews echo what I’ve heard privately regarding Allen’s character and Jacksonville seems to be getting a tremendous culture guy on top of an elite football player.
At Kentucky, Allen would hang around after practices to participate in Special Olympics events and volunteered at the Indian Summer Camp for children’s cancer survivors.
Allen spent his first three years of high school at Abbeville High School in Alabama before moving back to Montclair as a senior. Allen was actually a first-team all-state wide receiver in Alabama and continued to play wide receiver as a senior at Montclair High School for head coach John Fiore, who has produced over 60 FBS and FCS players over the last eight years. In his first year learning how to play defensive end as a high school senior, Allen led the entire state of New Jersey in sacks while also having 23 catches for 500 yards and 5 TDs, including an 80-yard touchdown catch.
He also has good genetics as his sister, Myisha Hines-Allen, is a former Louisville women’s basketball star and was a second round of the Washington Mystics in the 2018 WNBA Draft last April and Allen’s uncles were also mid-major Division I basketball players.
Allen is recently married to his wife Kaitlyn with one son, Wesley DeVon (who stole the show during his introductory press conference in Jacksonville despite Doug Marrone trying to kidnap him). In fact, it was Wesley that caused Josh Allen to make the decision to return to school after his junior year with newly hired former Indianapolis Colts outside linebackers coach Brad White, add 30 pounds of muscle, and launch himself from a day two to top-ten draft selection. NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt has estimated that Josh Allen made himself an extra $10 million by coming back to Kentucky for his senior season.
Allen’s non-sport talent is cooking, and the student of the game plans on being a sports analyst after his football career.
Physical traits and production
Allen is YOKED with bulging biceps and a barrel chest and has worked tirelessly in the weight room to get to 6’5” 262 pounds — up 30 pounds since his junior year. He wins with an explosive first step that he pairs with ethereal closing speed and has registered a 9.84 RAS as a defensive end. He also has outstanding lower body malleability that allows him to bend back towards quarterbacks climbing into the pocket and possesses the pure foot speed to mirror runners on outside zones and beat them to the sideline in his pursuit. Allen’s ability to flip his hips and drop into coverage is rare for his size, and his 28 reps on the bench press shows good functional strength that also shows up on tape.
The only physical knock on Allen is really his average arm length (which still isn’t too bad at 33 ½”) and abnormally small hands (8.75 inches is in the 1% percentile for his size).
Oddly enough, Allen’s list of player comparisons on Mockdraftable includes four (!!!) former or current Jaguars in Bobby McCray (top match), Andre Branch, Dawuane Smoot, and Jeremy Mincey. This isn’t exactly an awe-inspiring list, but a couple of names on that list in Ryan Kerrigan and Whitney Mercilus are enough to get Jaguars fans excited, and I was a huge fan of Marcus Davenport coming out of Texas-San Antonio, another former two-star recruit who ended up a first rounder.
In terms of production, few SEC rushers have seen a more dominant season than Allen compiled as a senior in 2018 when he finished second in the country in sacks with 17 and set UK’s single-season and career sacks record. Allen also won the 2018 Nagurski Trophy given to the top defensive player in college football as well as the Chuck Bednarik Award, Lott IMPACT trophy, Jack Lambert Award, and SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Allen also finished tied with Danny Trevathan for most forced fumbles in school history with 11. Perhaps most importantly Allen never missed a single game in his four-year collegiate career and in just 35 starts, totaled 224 tackles (41.0 for loss), 31.5 sacks, 15 quarterback hurries, 11 forced fumbles, eight PBUs, two fumble recoveries, one blocked kick and one interception.
Josh Allen is a senior team captain who predominantly rushed from a two point stance from both the left and right side in the Wildcats’ 3-4 defense. Allen is a true jack-of-all-trades and was used as a Swiss army knife to drop back into man coverage with running backs, line up across from wide receivers in zone coverage in the slot, set the edge in the running game and pin his ears back to rush the passer. While Allen is hardly the first player to be asked to have a portfolio as diverse as the one listed above, it’s rare to see a player who can do all of those things at the exceptionally high level that Allen does.
As a pass rusher, Allen’s explosiveness and first step quickness allows him to set up tackles and since he is equally capable of shimmying inside as he is running the arc and bending back towards the quarterback, tackles are often forced to hesitate and take a reactive approach to Allen.
Not only can Allen go both inside and outside, his bulked-up frame affords him the ability to convert speed to power and bull rush offensive tackles back into the lap of their quarterback. (Note: Jawaan Taylor actually does a nice job of planting and anchoring at the conclusion of the play here, and that should make you feel good!)
Allen’s change of direction and ability to bend shows up constantly on tape as he works back towards quarterbacks climbing up into the pocket and Allen is a closer who constantly attacks the football.
Look familiar, Jaguars fans?
He also always seems in complete control of his body and his ability to stop and start for a guy his size is rare.
If an athletic tackle can beat him to the point when running the arc, Allen will spin back with great urgency and reset his pursuit angle.
Allen only gets better as the game progresses and he possesses a killer instinct to close games out late into the fourth quarter.
He is already whipping SEC offensive tackles with not much more than his pure athleticism and strength (remember, he didn’t start playing defensive end until his senior year in high school), and once he can perfect a few key rush moves (*cough* Yannick cross chop *cough*), he will be an enormous problem for opposing defensive coordinators and NFL tackles.
As a run defender, Allen’s best attribute (in addition to his consistency as a tackler) is his discipline to set his edge and not try to chase the box score for stats.
A tremendous mental processor, Allen seems to understand the “why” of play design and won’t go outside the scope of his job and sacrifice the mission of the play.
Allen is an extremely reliable tackler in the open field and has the upper body strength to pull down stronger runners with his arms if he can’t square guys up and engage with technique.
Allen improved greatly in 2018 when it comes to working through traffic and shedding blockers to locate the football and affect the play.
In coverage, Allen shows very good instincts and play recognition when dropping into zone and will clog passing lanes with his movement and ability to read the quarterback’s eyes.
Not many 6’5” 260 pound athletes can turn and run with receivers, tight ends, and running backs in man coverage but Allen has the hip fluidity and acceleration to stay in-phase in man coverage and put himself in position to make plays on the football.
Allen is far from a perfect prospect, but to be honest, there aren’t too many holes to poke in Allen’s game without being incredibly nit-picky. Allen will fall for zone reads and bite on play action from time to time, and will also occasionally jump offsides trying to catch a slight advantage off the jump of the snap, but these are certainly things you can live with and improve. Allen’s biggest area of emphasis to take the next step in his game to become an elite playmaker is to learn more rush techniques with his hand in the ground. Allen’s main focus should be learning more ways to win with his hands as a rusher and develop a bunch of arrows in his pass rush quiver.
He has shown flashes of swims and rips to win his match ups in space, but if he can commit these techniques to muscle memory and even scarier — stack moves on top of each other — it could be game over for Tytus Howard and company.
Several opposing SEC tackles have listed Allen as the toughest player they’ve ever gone up against and Lance Zierlein said earlier on NFL Network that a colleague of his who is an NFL Director of Analytics whose analytics had Aaron Donald as the best player in his draft have Allen pegged as being the best prospect in this class, per his formulas.
Overall, the Jaguars are getting an elite athlete at a premium position and an exceptional person off the field. Allen plays with a tireless motor and doesn’t come off the field, likely factoring in as the Jaguars’ starting SAM in base downs and moving to edge rusher in pass rush situations.
Much like Yannick Ngakoue, Allen has a knack for forcing fumbles and gives the Jaguars a ton of versatility on defense moving forward. In fact, Jaguars fans better hope Allen isn’t so damn good that he gives the front office second thoughts about giving big money to Yannick Ngakoue in the form of a contract extension, as the two together could be *kisses fingers like a chef.*
Size, athleticism, production, character. Allen checks every single box to warrant his top seven selection and in all frankness, would and should have been a top three selection were it not for such a strong defensive line class. In fact, I’m not so sure Allen wouldn’t have graded higher than Bradley Chubb last year in my rankings, and Chubb managed to notch 12 sacks as a rookie opposite Von Miller. Let’s hope Allen can have similar production working opposite Yannick Ngakoue in 2019 and beyond.