Is Keenan Allen a first round lock?

Wide receivers come at a premium in the NFL. Some shocking news to you all, I’m sure.

That said, it’s always worth remembering that like it or not (and personally speaking, I do not), the NFL is now unequivocally a pass-first league, even in the wake of Adrian Peterson’s near-record shattering season, the ground-and-pound game is now viewed with a mix of sympathy, derision and in some cases, total confusion.

A good wideout can make or break an offense and in recent years, we have seen the good (AJ Green), the bad (Buster Davis) and the indifferent (Darrius Heyward-Bey) of first round pick receivers. 2008, the last year without a 1st round WR, seems a very long time ago.

This year, we have heard that there is no AJ Green, no Calvin Johnson, no Michael Crabtree. Whilst this is true, there is an excellent prospect lurking over in Strawberry Canyon.

Keenan Allen is as close to a complete package as we’re likely to see in the 2013 draft. At the moment he may be the first and possibly only wide receiver taken on Day 1 of April’s draft in a class that, whilst not shy of talent, isn’t as deep as the past two seasons.

Allen, a 6’3 210lbs prospect, oozes talent. Despite playing on one of the poorest offenses in the PAC-12, he has more receptions than any Golden Bear before him and his 2,570 receiving yards ranks third in school history.

Throughout his time in Berkeley, Allen’s biggest weakness has been is Quarterback (and half-brother), Zach Maynard. Allen decided to forego a glittering National Championship/BCS Bowl career in favour of signing on with Cal after making several visits to prestige collages in the South including Clemson and Alabama (to whom he had initially committed). Instead of Greg McElroy, AJ McCarron and Tajh Boyd throwing balls at him, Allen was stuck with Maynard who has been somewhat of a weak link for the Golden Bears, especially during 2012.

Allen is big, physical and fast. Although he might lack elite speed of a guy like Tavon Austin or Justin Hunter, he is explosive and is still able to get separation downfield.

Allen, a converted high school Defensive Back, has shown his versatility during his time at Cal and although not a typical slot receiver, can manfully play any as the Y receiver. Allen is not afraid of contact and is used to catching passes in traffic in underneath routes over the middle, excelling in Cal’s somewhat limited West Coast offence.

If an on-field weakness is to be found in Allen, it would be his drops, which throughout his career have been an issue. Whilst he made significant improvements in 2012, he still has a tendency to wait for the ball to reach him and not pro-actively attack the ball. This will cause some scouts difficulties.

Overall it’s hard to see Allen slipping much lower than the middle of Round 1. He’s a player that most teams will love but maybe not enough to forgo more pressing needs. San Diego at 11 will be his ceiling but more realistically, I think St Louis at 16 (or in the early 20s with the Redskins’ traded pick), Green Bay or Minnesota (picks in the 20s to be decided)  are more realistic.

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