One of the best at doing so in 2016 was Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, who has been widely regarded as a top-five pick in this draft. The 6’3”, 291-pound lineman recorded 69 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks last season, along with two fumble returns for a touchdown, earning him the Bronko Nagurski Trophy last season as the nation’s best defensive player.
That was after a junior season in which he recorded 36 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and two forced fumbles. He did so while lining up at defensive end and tackle throughout his career, making him a valuable commodity for any NFL team, whether they run a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
That’s why it’s hard to see Cincinnati having a shot at Allen when they go on the clock in Round 1. Allen was one of, if not the best defensive player in college football last year, and was also viewed as a consensus top-five with many projecting him to the 49ers at pick No. 2.
But as the draft draws near, it’s looking more and more like Allen could actually fall to the Bengals. In the latest media mock draft at Bengals.com, Geoff Hobson mocked Allen to Cincinnati after the stud lineman managed to fall that far.
9.BENGALS: DT Jonathan Allen, Alabama - Purely the best player on the board. He needed a suitcase after the season when he won the Bronko Nagurski Award for best defensive player, the Chuck Bednarik Award for best defensive player, and the Ted Hendricks Award for best defensive end.
Maybe someone would call Paul Brown Stadium to try to go up and get him if he slid this far, which would make the Bengals think about trading back. But, in the end, they’d be getting a top five player in this draft. It just depends on whose top five because if it is one thing this top ten lacks it is consensus. Still, ESPN has him as its No. 2 player as ranked by Scouts, Inc., and CBS has him at No. 4.
Allen falling to and even past Cincinnati is something that’s happening in more mocks as the draft inches closer. Matt Miller’s latest projection actually has Allen falling all the way to pick No. 15 before the Colts scoop him up. Two of NFL.com’s four draft experts project Allen to or after pick No. 9.
So, why is Allen suddenly viewed as a guy who could fall to the Bengals, if not past them? It started in February at the Scouting Combine, where news surfaced that Allen has developed arthritis in his shoulders, a condition that wouldn’t bode well for his long-term durability in the NFL.
While Alabama team doctor Dr. Lyle Cain does not think Allen’s shoulder injuries should be anything of a concern, he did reveal that both of Allen’s shoulders have been surgically repaired, which should be a red flag for any team considering him early in Round 1.
And it’s no secret that Alabama players enter the NFL with a lot more wear and tear than most schools. We’ve seen plenty of former Crimson Tide superstars become duds in the NFL because they couldn’t stay healthy, or at the very least have a rough first couple of years in the pros.
Dre Kirkpatrick was among them, as he could barely get on the field over his first two years in large part due to injuries. He eventually developed into a guy worthy of the No. 17 pick in that 2012 NFL Draft, but the Bengals can’t afford to take a guy at No. 9 that has a similar career.
Whoever the Bengals take in Round 1, he needs to make an impact early and often for this team to remain a playoff contender. If Allen can’t be that, you can’t blame the Bengals and other teams for passing on him.
Still, Allen is a rare prospect who would be very hard to pass on, especially at No. 9. He’s exactly the kind of instant-impact defensive lineman the Bengals’ defense badly needs to play with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap next season.
The risk appears to be higher with Allen then most of the guys in contention for pick No. 9, but he may offer the highest reward of them all.