In the 2018 NFL Draft, Josh Allen was a prospect that I wanted no part of.
In the 2019 NFL Draft, Josh Allen is a prospect that I absolutely love.
No, this isn’t a case of a player developing over the course of a year. This is a case of mistaken identity. Josh Allen, the quarterback out of the University of Wyoming drafted by the Buffalo Bills, is not the focus of this article. Instead, I believe that Josh Allen, the Kentucky linebacker and edge rusher, is the ideal pick for the Detroit Lions in 2019.
During the 2018 offseason, the Lions signed Devon Kennard to a three-year, $17.25 million contract to be their passing-rushing linebacker in their newly implemented 3-4 defense. On paper, this seems like a good signing: Kennard posted 7.0 sacks, good for second on the team.
However, much like Romeo Okwara and his 8.0 sacks, this stat is not a good indicator of his performance last season. Specifically, he failed to deliver a consistent pass rush. Kennard had a PFF pass rushing grade of just 50.0. Despite his 425 snaps as a pass rusher, he recorded only 22 hurries. For comparison, rookie Da’Shawn Hand, an interior lineman, had 22 hurries on 263 pass rushing snaps. Additionally, the Lions needed Kennard to drop into coverage on occasion, and he wasn’t very effective, allowing a passer rating of 130.6 when targeted.
Enter Josh Allen.
Alex Reno did a profile on Josh Allen back in December, and his draft stock has skyrocketed since then. As a result, we could see a Josh Allen selected in the top 10 for the second consecutive year.
Unlike the current Bills quarterback, the Kentucky linebacker is well deserving of his ranking, and it starts with his athleticism:
Josh Allen boasts an elite athletic profile at both linebacker and defensive end, coming in with an excellent combination of size and speed. As a pass rusher, Allen’s speed makes him a serious threat on the outside. As a linebacker, he has the ability to excel in coverage. The Lions have had issues with covering tight ends specifically in recent years, and Allen could develop into a legitimate counter to them, with the height and speed to keep up with the Travis Kelce’s and George Kittle’s of the league.
As Reno notes, his pass rushing moves could use some grooming, and he could expand his arsenal as well. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of potential with Allen.
The biggest hurdle preventing Allen from becoming a Detroit Lion is actually his talent. At this point, it would be a surprise if he falls to the eighth overall pick. San Francisco, both New York teams, Oakland, and Tampa Bay are all candidates to select Allen before the Lions. The Lions have been discussed as a team that could trade down on draft day, and Allen being unavailable could instigate this move. If Allen is available when the Lions are on the clock, they should rush to the podium.