Although the period of “team Pro Days” ended last week, Keenan Allen is finally ready to showcase his skills at his own personal workout in Greensboro, NC tomorrow afternoon. Because a knee injury kept him sidelined for Cal’s Pro Day and the Scouting Combine, the wide receiver prospect now has his best offseason chance to boost his draft stock. Although the Steelers could be enticed to select the much-hyped Cordarrelle Patterson or Tavon Austin in Round 1 of this month’s draft, I hope they do not sleep on a talented pass-catcher like the former California Golden Bear.
Allen the Prospect
From a production standpoint, Keenan emerged one of the Pac-12′s best wide receivers over the last two years. As a redshirt sophomore, Allen burst on the scene back in 2011 when he racked up 98 catches for 1,343 yards and 6 touchdowns as he earned 1st team All-Pac-12 honors from the league’s coaches.
Unfortunately for the 6’2″ 206 lb. pass-catcher, 2012 did not prove to be a tremendous follow-up season. Allen not only sustained a PCL sprain and missed 3 games, but it didn’t help that his quarterback (and brother) Zach Maynard struggled with some erratic play too. Struggles and injury aside, the Golden Bear pass-catcher still managed to pace Cal’s offense with 61 grabs for 737 yards and 6 touchdowns.
In addition to his good (but not elite) set of hands, the part of Allen’s game that I particularly like is his ability to work all levels of the field in the passing-game. While Allen definitely illustrated the ability to stretch the field and an opposing defense vertically, he did some of his best work in the short and intermediate areas during his collegiate career.
Allen excelled on tunnel screens and slants with the Golden Bears, and made ”many a big gain” on that staple passing play of Cal’s offense. Although Keenan does not have the type of explosiveness that an Austin or a Patterson does, when Allen turns his hips up-field and has a head of steam he is a difficult man to bring to the ground. Plus, it does not hurt that the former Golden Bear is a long-strider, and has some solid open-field awareness.
I should also add that Allen’s experience and effective play in the slot and at split end should make him a versatile chess-piece to move around on the perimeter for Ben Roethlisberger. Because Keenan can run his passing-routes so well and in such a crisp manner, he is a threat to make a play no matter where he lines up on the football field, especially in the red zone.
Inside the 20 yard line, Allen can bring back the fade route to Pittsburgh, and utilize his large frame to pluck the ball away from opposing cornerbacks. The former Golden Bear uses his body control well and can outmaneuver defensive backs for the ball in one-on-one situations. In addition to working outside the numbers, Allen has the physicality and skill-set to shine in the slot in the red zone area too. Keenan’s frame would put him at a tremendous advantage over smaller slot cornerbacks and safeties, and his speed and agility would allow him to shake linebackers in limited amounts of space.
What Allen Must Prove
As terrific as Allen was during his collegiate career, he will likely have to prove two important things at his ”Pro Day” to scouts from around the league: his overall health and his overall speed.
From a health standpoint, Allen must illustrate to scouts that he is fully healed from the aforementioned PCL injury, and the ankle injury he suffered before the 2012 season began. Since this will be Allen’s first public workout since his season ended, it will give him a terrific chance to illustrate that he is ready to compete and contribute at the pro level in 2013.
As far as Allen’s “speed” is concerned, I am sure that some will be curious to see how fast the pass-catcher is timed in his 40 yard dash. Although Keenan proved to have plenty of game speed on tape, he definitely does not possess the type of explosiveness that a Patterson or an Austin does right now. Nevertheless, tomorrow’s workout should give Allen an ample opportunity to prove his naysayers wrong.
Even if Keenan does not time particularly well though, I should mention that plenty of successful and highly talented pass-catchers have seen their stock tank due to their showings in the 40, or multiple had questions centered around their raw speed heading into “Draft Weekend.” (i.e.: Anquan Boldin, Stevie Johnson, Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Marshall, Reggie Wayne, and even Larry Fitzgerald)
Injuries and supposed lack of speed aside, from what I have watched of Allen I believe that his skill-set would greatly compliment those of Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. The former Cal pass-catcher would add some different and unique elements to Pittsburgh’s passing-game, and has the potential make the team’s aerial-attack more potent overall. The Steelers need to select a wide receiver at some point in this month’s draft, and it would not hurt the front office to select one sooner as opposed to later either. I just hope that at least some members of the coaching staff and scouts are in Greensboro tomorrow for Allen’s Pro Day to decide for themselves whether or not he can help Pittsburgh’s thin wide receiver corps.