Keenan Allen is a really good wide receiver. As obvious as that statement seems now, it wasn’t as obvious leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft. Despite being California’s all-time leading receiver, questions about Allen’s ability, and a late season knee injury, kept him from being considered a top tier talent coming into the NFL. Seven receivers were taken before Allen in the 2013 Draft and while some of them showed potential, none dominated the way Allen did during the 2013 season. He became the 17th receiver to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in his rookie season, while only having three receptions and 30 receiving yards through the first two weeks. What about Allen was missed leading up to the draft and what can that teach us for further judging receiver prospects in the future?
On Ourlads’ scouting report on Allen, three sentences in the middle of the evaluation stand out:
“Good body control. Makes contested catches. Struggled in 2012 with inconsistent quarterback play.”
For many teams, the third sentence held more weight than the first two in a perceived “down year” in his final collegiate season. In reality, the first two were a result of dealing with the inconsistent quarterback play and would become one of the strengths in his game. Pull up any game from Allen this past season and you’ll see him make at least one incredible adjustment to an off-target pass. He was one of the best bad ball catchers in the league last season and that skill was partly learned from having to catch bad balls during his entire college career. While many teams watched film and saw a decrease in production, too many put the blame on Allen instead of the quarterback. Allen did all he could with inaccurate passes and without him, some of those passes could be much worse.
This can bring up the question of where does bad quarterbacking start and great receiving begin, since quarterbacks with trust in great receivers will be more likely to throw up a pass with confidence the receiver can come down with the ball. At times last season Philip Rivers threw a 50-50 ball, allowing Allen to use his body to complete the pass and more often than not he did. Allen had a 68.1 percent catch rate, tied with Jordy Nelson as the second highest for receivers targeted on at least 20 percent of a team’s pass attempts. In the NFL, the ability to adjust to the ball is still an overlooked — at least more overlooked than it should be — skill in receiver prospects.
The Chargers could take a receiver somewhere in the draft this season to add further depth to a corps that doesn’t have a lot of standout talent behind Allen. So is there a receiver San Diego could target using the same type of process they used in selecting Allen?