With the 2011 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Right up to the draft, we'll be taking a closer look at the 50 players who may be the biggest NFL difference-makers when all is said and done.
We continue this year's series with Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen, who suffered from a case of "more money, more problems" in the final days of his college career. After Clemson lost to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, reporters asked Allen if he was ready to go pro, and Allen dropped this bomb:" I'm happy to say that the one thing that's not going to go in my decision is money. Being at Clemson I have more money, more resources, than I've ever had in my whole life."
Uninformed bloggers, start your engines! Yep, it sure sounds like Allen is admitting to cashing checks, though anyone who has ever been on scholarship knows that a student can, in fact, have more money (and resources!) than they ever had in the form of food, clothing and cost-of-living stipends. Whatever he meant, Allen renounced his final year of eligibility just days later.
Soon, Allen will have more money (and resources!) than he ever had, and he will be able to openly proclaim it without getting hammered by the blogosphere. In fact, it will probably be first-round money, as NFL teams are going to like a lot of what they see on Allen's tape.
Pros: Allen lined up all over the field for Clemson. He was used as a slot receiver and a motion H-back often. The Tigers frequently used Wildcat-like formations, with Allen as the "up" back. With those formations came different pass routes and roles. Allen ran wide receiver patterns from the slot, including deep in-routes and corner routes. Clemson passed often from their version of the Wildcat, and in addition to leaking into the flat, Allen often ran "wheel" routes that had him racing up the sideline.
Allen was not a high-precision route runner on these various routes, but he did a lot of things well. He used his hips and shoulders to mislead defenders and head-faked defenders before making his breaks. Allen has the athleticism and fluidity to improve as a route runner, and some of the fundamentals are already there.
Allen has the hands of a possession receiver, and he can catch the ball away from his body. He can also post-up defenders and make one-handed catches. Allen runs well with the ball in his hands and hurdled over some would-be tacklers in the open field.
Allen was often used as a pull blocker on Wildcat and Pistol-type plays. When blocking on the move, he makes good decisions and walls off his opponent from the ball carrier.
Cons: Allen is not a classic in-line mauler as a blocker. Of course, how many classic maulers do you see in the NFL nowadays? Not many. But Allen needs to improve if he wants to be anything close to a Rob Gronkowski-type, who can stand up his defender on shotgun draws and contribute to pass protection.
While Allen's overall athleticism is great, he does not have the pure speed of a Jimmy Graham or a Jermichael Finley. His route-running can be tighter, particularly over the middle of the field. Allen got away with drifting into open space at the college level, but he must be crisper and more decisive when working the middle in the pros.
Conclusions: Allen is a versatile, athletic player whose receiving skills are NFL ready. A team with a multi-faceted offense will have a lot of fun moving him all over the formation. Sean Payton would love him, if he were not suspended and if the Saints had early draft picks. Others offensive gurus could also find interesting roles for him: Rob Chudzinski could use him well in Carolina, and Tony Sparano could develop some interesting two tight-end sets for the Jets.
Allen should be able to contribute about 40 catches and some red zone assistance right away. Whether he grows into a Pro Bowler depends on how well he refines his routes and his blocking. For now, pencil in an upside among the second tier of NFL pass catchers.
NFL Comparison: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions.
More Shutdown 50:
#32: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford | #33: Bobby Massie, OT, Mississippi | #34: Andre Branch, DE/OLB, Clemson | #35: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama | #36: Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse | #37: Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech | #38: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall | #39: Doug Martin, RB, Boise State | #40 : Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers | #41: Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina | #42: Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska| #43: Jared Crick, DE/DT, Nebraska| #44: Alshon Jeffrey, WR, South Carolina | #45: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State| #46: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia| #47: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami| #48: Shea McClellin, OLB/DE, Boise State| #49: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU | #50: Jonathan Massaqoui, OLB/DE, Troy