He was regarded as a late first to early second round pick after totaling a team-high 12 sacks in 2015, but Jonathan Allen decided to return to school for his senior season and he dominated.
The former University of Alabama standout was one of multiple leaders that aided a defense in allowing 13 points, 64 rushing yards and 262 total yards, while creating an FBS-leading 54 sacks and 29 turnovers (11 touchdowns). Listed at 6-foot-3 and 291 pounds, the Leesburg, Va., native turned in a monster year with 69 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 15 quarterback hurries and three fumble recoveries, including two returned for scores.
Allen’s biggest play of the 2016 season came against Texas A&M, when he beat offensive guard Colton Prater off the line of scrimmage and hurdled over running back Trayveon Williams to drill quarterback Trevor Knight into the ground for an earth-shattering sack. His trophy case was hefty to end the year, as Allen won the Ted Hendricks Trophy, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award and SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year.
He was one of three Crimson Tide players named a unanimous All-American, joining linebacker Reuben Foster (2016 Butkus Award winner) and offensive tackle Cam Robinson (2016 Outland Trophy winner).
Aside from his size, Allen’s hands, pass rush moves and explosiveness are all strengths to his game. Being a three-down player was pegged as his lone weakness; however, his performance overrules the statement.
Per CBS’ NFL Draft Tracker, Allen is the No. 2 overall prospect and top-ranked defensive tackle prospect in this year’s draft class. He’s projected a top-10 pick, despite most media pundits unsure as to whether one should take Allen or Texas A&M’s defensive end—Myles Garrett—as the No. 1 overall selection.
Listed below are three NFL teams that have an eye on Allen.
Jacksonville Jaguars (AFC South, 2016 record: 3-13)
After four rough seasons with Gus Bradley (2013-16), Jacksonville’s new life begins under Doug Marrone.
The Jaguars return Dante Fowler Jr., Yannick Ngakoue and Malik Jackson to its defensive line, with Ngakoue leading the trio in sacks (eight) during the 2016 season. Following a knee injury prior to starting his rookie year, Fowler returned with 32 total tackles, three tackles for loss, four sacks and five passes defended.
In his first season in Jacksonville, Jackson chimed in with 33 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
While it ranked in the top-10 for total defense (321.7 ypg/ 6th), the Jaguars were 19th in run defense (106.4 ypg), tied for 19th in sacks (33) and 18th in third down defense (37.1 percent). Selecting Jonathan Allen helps it in rush defense and sacks, as he helped the Tide limit opponents to 71 yards/ game in the last two seasons and totaled 28.5 sacks—moving him to second in school history behind NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas.
According to spotrac.com, defensive tackle Abry Jones and defensive end Tyson Alualu are both unrestricted free agents come March. Should Jacksonville lose one or both players, it needs to draft someone with a high-end motor that can come in and make an impact. Generating pressure to quarterbacks is crucial for defenses in the AFC South, especially when dealing with a veteran in Andrew Luck and a rising star in Marcus Mariota.
Carolina Panthers (NFC South, 2016 record: 6-10)
Coach Ron Rivera must address his defensive line, with Charles Johnson, Kawann Short and Mario Addison all being unrestricted free agents. Carolina would lose 19.5 of its 47 sacks (second in NFL) from last year, should it all three guys leave. Its consistency against the run and on third down was effective—yet and still, Carolina had one of the league’s worst total defenses. Getting a pass rusher to pair with Kony Ealy is ideal.
Jonathan Allen’s hand technique in one-on-one battles produced 22.5 sacks during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Having two skilled players at both end positions make life difficult for offensive guards and tackles.
Defense got Carolina to Super Bowl 50 off the 2015 campaign. Adding another monster creates havoc for Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Jameis Winston in an entertaining NFC South Division.
Cincinnati Bengals (AFC North, 2016 record: 6-9-1)
Four of the Bengals’ nine defeats in 2016 came by a combined 12 points.
Coach Marvin Lewis has plenty of fire power on offense, but with Wallace Gilberry (resigned in 2016), Margus Hunt and Brandon Thompson all being unrestricted free agents—the defensive line needs some retooling.
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther witnessed his group finished near the bottom of multiple categories, including rush defense at No. 21 (113.3 yards/game). Cincinnati returns defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Will Clarke along with defensive tackle Geno Atkins, but adding one more piece would be special.