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One of the prospects most commonly linked to the Jets in this draft cycle has been Kentucky edge defender Josh Allen. This makes a lot of sense, as Allen is considered one of the best pass rushers in the draft and that's arguably the Jets' biggest need.
With Jordan Jenkins and Brandon Copeland currently projected as the starters on the edge, any rookie has a great opportunity to come in and play a big role and would be expected to win a starting job. The Jets have done their homework on Allen, whom they met with at the combine and then brought in for an official visit earlier this month.
While it's a safe pick that should provide an immediate upgrade, the Jets should also take into account the long-term value they'll get from this pick. With a top three pick, they don't want to pass on a potentially elite talent, so it will come down to how good they believe he can be down the road.
Projected Pick: Top 5
College (career): 220 tackles, 31.5 sacks
Combine: 28 bench press reps, 4.63 in the 40-yard dash
Allen was one of the most improved players in the nation last season. He entered his senior year with 14.5 career sacks but broke out with 17 as a senior. That was good for second place in the FBS and is made all the more impressive by the fact that he had fewer pass rush attempts than most of the other top edge defenders.
Allen's success comes from his explosiveness off the edge. He's quick out of his stance and can bend the edge to beat offensive tackles around the corner. He posted very good numbers for speed, agility, explosiveness and strength at the combine.
One of Allen's best attributes is that he is scheme versatile due to his ability to drop into coverage effectively. He mostly played as a stand-up linebacker at Kentucky but has also played with his hand in the dirt from time to time.
Allen's functional strength is good, and he is willing to take on blocks in the trenches. He's also regarded as having strong football character and is motivated to constantly improve himself.
Allen was consistently effective in college and had a high pressure rate, but he didn't have a great deal of success against any of the top tackle prospects and had a tendency to rely on a few go-to moves. To succeed at the pro level, he'll need to improve his technique and develop a wider repertoire of moves and an ability to counter when repelled. It could take him longer than the more polished Nick Bosa to contribute at a high level, which is why Bosa will probably be selected higher than him.
While he has the potential to be solid against the run and in coverage, Allen's awareness is sometimes lacking as he can be fooled by misdirection causing him to get caught inside or lose contain. Film study and playbook familiarity should help with this.
Allen's size was said to be a concern during the season, but he weighed in at a solid 262 pounds at the combine. He was thought to have played at closer to 240 in the past. Even so, he's considerably bigger than Brian Burns, which is one of the main reasons teams have Allen ranked higher.
One combine measurement that did give cause for concern was his hand size. Allen's hand span measured at less than nine inches, which is unusually small for an NFL edge defender. In fact, it was the second smallest measurement ever for an edge defender at the combine. This may not seem like a big deal, but hand usage is considered an area where he needs to improve, so that might make it harder for him to do so.
Whether or not the Jets draft Allen depends in large part on how much of an upgrade they feel he is over the other pass rushers who could be available later on.
It could also depend on how they feel about some other prospects. If they view a non-edge rusher like Quinnen Williams as a significantly superior prospect to Allen, then they may opt to select him regardless of their positional need. This would be consistent with their approach to free agency where they spent big money on CJ Mosley even though inside linebacker wasn't a primary need.
If the Jets like Allen enough - and can't find a team desperate enough to trade up - then he could be the pick at three. In addition, if they trade down with the Raiders, Bucs or Giants, then perhaps there's a slim chance he'd still be available.