If one would’ve asked me this question back in 2010, I’d take Keenan Allen in a heartbeat. I was covering a game between Cal and Colorado in Berkeley as a freelancer for CSN Bay Area, and during pregame warmups Allen (then a freshman) stood out to the point where he looked better than any wide receiver on the San Francisco 49ers’ roster at the time. He was a clear first round NFL talent, the only question was how high he’d go. Then he suffered through some pretty awful quarterbacking on a Jeff Tedford-led team that went nowhere, with the end of his collegiate career curtailed by injury.
A couple days ago Allen finally ran a 40-yard dash publicly, and the results weren’t good. They weren’t this bad …
Actually, maybe they were, since Manti Te’o is a middle linebacker and Allen is a receiver. Mike Mayock doesn’t care about Allen’s times of 4.71 and 4.75, however:
Trainers told Mayock that Allen only has 75 percent to 80 percent of his explosion, but said “that’s what comes last” in the healing process. Allen recently told The Sacramento Bee that he’s only about 85 percent back.
“Let me preface the whole 40-yard conversation with this,” Mayock told NFL Network’s “Path to the Draft.”
“Three months ago, I said — if you watch this kid on tape — if you like him, he’s Anquan Boldin. If you don’t like him, he’s speed-deficient. So I don’t really care what he runs in the 40. On tape, to me, he’s a 4.55 guy all day long.”
Mayock called Allen’s 40 results “not a good time,” but scouts and coaches told him they expect Allen to be faster down the road. What he gives you, according to Mayock, is “a big, powerful, wide receiver” who might go anywhere from No. 25 to No. 45 in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Do the 49ers need another Anquan Boldin? As of now, Michael Crabtree and A.J. Jenkins are the only wideouts under contract beyond next season, and Matt Barrows thinks Allen’s similarities to both Boldin and Crabtree would intrigue the 49ers. Boldin probably wouldn’t be the worst guy to groom Allen, either.
Allen isn’t going to be chosen as high in the 2013 NFL Draft as I would’ve assumed back in September of 2010. However, he comes with the health and teammate-related excuses I mentioned earlier, along with some production. 98 receptions in a college season is ridiculous, and that’s what he amassed in 2011 along with 1,343 yards.
Here’s what causes concern: would Allen be such an interesting prospect to me and so many 49ers fans and observers if he played for Tennessee or Clemson (Justin Hunter’s and DeAndre Hopkins’ respective schools)? It’s getting to the point where if I’m Trent Baalke I’d probably shy away from all the local stars from Cal and Stanford simply because it feels like so many around here suffer from regional bias (and yes, I can say that without fear because Ruthless Sports Guy is in Mexico right now).
But perhaps I’m the one who has the problem. After Allen missed the last three games of Cal’s season and went MIA at the NFL Combine — and showed why this week with those 40 times — maybe this is a case of seeing so much of a guy that I’m starting to pick him apart. And maybe Zach Ertz really is the next Jimmy Graham, only with baby arms.
I’m not necessarily someone who thinks the 49ers need a burner who Colin Kaepernick can target on balls that travel 40+ yards in the air. Sure, that’d be nice, but guys who get open and catch the ball are what the 49ers need — not guys who can win races. A three-WR set featuring Crabtree, Boldin and Allen would give the 49ers three viable receiving threats and a formation where the running game could still thrive. Plus, everyone already knows my thoughts on Kyle Williams and his ability to fill the glamourous “deep threat” role.
The 49ers could very well trade up for a defensive star in the draft, and most people think the 49ers will take two defenders if they stand pat at Nos. 31 and 34 overall anyway. So what’s the answer on Allen? This is a pretty terrible conclusion I admit, but it’s a situation where if he’s available and they draft someone else I’d understand, and if they drafted him I’d be excited to see what he can do as he regains that explosion. But I’m guessing Baalke and Jim Harbaugh will pass on Allen in the end instead of allowing Kaepernick to pass to him.