NFL draft profile: No. 6 — Alabama DL Jonathan Allen, shaky medicals but outstanding potential

Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen
6-foot-3, 286 pounds

Key stat: Allen’s 28.5 sacks (in 38 career starts) rank second only to Derrick Thomas in Crimson Tide history.

Alabama DL Jonathan Allen has some medical concerns but is an outstanding NFL draft prospect. (AP)
Alabama DL Jonathan Allen has some medical concerns but is an outstanding NFL draft prospect. (AP)

The skinny: Army brat who was a consensus All-American pick as a prep player, Allen played right away as a true freshman on talented ‘Bama defense and on special teams in 2013 before earning a starting spot the next season. Over the next three seasons Allen played multiple techniques along the defensive line and became one of the leaders of an elite defense, including for the national championship season of 2015 and — after surprising many when he opted not to declare for the 2016 NFL draft — the nation’s runners-up in 2016. He was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year last season (and also won the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski Awards) with 10.5 sacks and two fumbles returned for touchdowns.

Allen declined an invitation to the Senior Bowl following a long season and projections that he might be a top-five draft selection. However, there has been concern about potentially arthritic shoulders that have some in the NFL concerned about his long-term health. He turns 23 years old next January.

Best-suited destination: Allen is a scheme-diverse player who could fit beautifully at nearly any technique along the defensive line. Most teams are not envisioning him as a wide-9 rusher, for instance, but Allen really could play anywhere from head up over offensive tackles all the way down to over the nose, depending on the scheme the team that drafts him runs. Football-wise, he has mass appeal and would not require much in the way of projection. We think his best role might be as a 4-3 base end (or 3-technique) or as a 3-4 end, and in either system he could kick down inside in passing situations. Among the teams that could be especially interested in his services include the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers, among others.

Upside: Scheme-diverse, multi-positional rusher. Terrific strength at the point of attack matched with great quickness off the ball. Converts speed to power better than almost any rusher, interior of edge, in this draft class. Explodes off the snap and forces linemen to get off balance. Also can win immediately with his hand usage, which is excellent. Very well schooled, technique-wise, and rarely seems off-balance or out of control. Even when he’s not getting sacks, Allen can rack up the pressures and also make plays behind the line in the run game.

Also very smart and aware. Embraces tape study and can recognize run/pass by formation and tendency. Watch here has Allen indicates to his teammates that a pass is coming on what would become a stunning sack against Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight:


Allen came into the program as a linebacker and bulked up without losing much in the way of foot quickness or lateral agility. Turned in the best 3-cone drill time (7.49 seconds) of any interior defender at the NFL scouting combine. Also had a terrific 10-yard split time of 1.69 seconds on his 40-yard dash there, indicating good explosion and burst. Plays fast, has active feet and wins with effort. Draws double teams away from teammates — and still manages to make plays himself. One of the most productive rushers in the country against one of the toughest schedules in the nation the past three-plus seasons.

Has blocked multiple kicks in his career, including extra-point attempt in 14-13 win over Arkansas in 2014. Battled-tested. Has played in huge games on a weekly basis, faced high-level scrutiny and earned praise from one of the country’s most demanding coaches, Nick Saban, who has an NFL pedigree and produced many NFL-caliber linemen. Allen is considered smart, studious, serious, tough and motivated to be great. He was a vocal leader on a perennial title contender.

Downside: Medical reports suggest Allen might not have a long career. Arthritis a concern, especially after he’s had both shoulders operated on in the past. Turned in low bench-press number (21) at the combine, which surprised many observers and had teams rechecking his medical condition, especially for how strong he often appeared on tape and how relatively short his arms are (50th percentile, per Mockdraftable). Also has very small hands (14th percentile) for his position. Overall athleticism is just average, or below in some cases, when compared to defensive ends, as opposed to true interior players. Had a bit of a quiet national title game after running into an early sack for a short loss.

Allen increased his snap count as a senior but still was rotated out often on talented, deep unit. Played alongside some of the best defensive talent in the country. Not often effective at defeating well-executed double teams. Might be less effective if he’s in a gap-control scheme vs. an upfield or gap-slanting system. Offensive linemen with mass can collapse him more easily, and Allen might not have the true mass to live his whole career in the thick of the trenches.

Scouting hot take: “I put a higher grade on him before the medicals came in and we had to lower him because of that. That was really it. You don’t see too many like him; he’s that good to me. It is what it is. He’s an interior rusher and we badly need one. I honestly don’t know where he’ll go because of the [shoulder concern].” — NFC college scouting director (and former defensive lineman)

Player comp: Gerald McCoy

Expected draft range: Top-15 pick

Previous profiles

Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney
No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King
No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt
No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones
No. 44. Alabama LB Ryan Anderson
No. 43. Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel
No. 42. Florida DT Caleb Brantley
No. 41. Connecticut DB Obi Melifonwu
No. 40. USC CB-KR Adoree’ Jackson
No. 39. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
No. 38. Michigan State DL Malik McDowell
No. 37: Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
No. 36: Florida LB Jarrad Davis
No. 35: Washington S Budda Baker
No. 34: Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon
No. 33: Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
No. 32: Florida CB Quincy Wilson
No. 31: Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
No. 30: Michigan DB-RS Jabrill Peppers
No. 29: Alabama OT Cam Robinson
No. 28: Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer
No. 27: LSU CB Tre’Davious White
No. 26: Missouri DE Charles Harris
No. 25: UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley
No. 24: Michigan DE Taco Charlton
No. 23: Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
No. 22: Utah OT Garett Bolles
No. 21: Western Kentucky OG-C Forrest Lamp
No. 20: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
No. 19: Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku
No. 18: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
No. 17: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
No. 16: North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky
No. 15: Washington WR John Ross
No. 14: Clemson WR Mike Williams
No. 13: Western Michigan WR Corey Davis
No. 12: Temple LB Haason Reddick
No. 11: Ohio State CB Gareon Conley
No. 10: Alabama TE O.J. Howard
No. 9: Stanford RB-WR-RS Christian McCaffrey
No. 8: Alabama LB Reuben Foster
No. 7: Ohio State S Malik Hooker

– – – – – – –

Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next