Were college film the only prerequisite for drafting players, Jonathan Allen would have a case to go No. 1 overall.
Voted the nation’s top defender last year, the lineman has posted 27 ½ sacks in his last three years at Alabama. No one allowed fewer points last season than his Crimson Tide; in his four years, the team never finished below sixth nationally in scoring defense.
Allen is, perhaps, the safest pick the Bears could make when they choose third in next week’s draft.
At 6-3, 286 pounds, he’d slide into a starting slot on a line with Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks and make a promising front seven even better. Having played inside in college, he could bump down over the guard on nickel and dime sets to rush the passer.
GM Ryan Pace, who used a second-round pick on Goldman in 2015 and a third-rounder on fellow lineman Jonathan Bullard last year, values building a defense from front to back. Taking the best player on the best defense in college would be a no-brainer.
But the Bears have more to consider than just the tape.
Allen has had surgery on both shoulders and has an arthritic condition in them, though the lineman said doctors told him the latter shouldn’t bother him until after football.
One sign the Bears are comfortable with his medical reports: they sent Vic Fangio and defensive line coach Jay Rodgers to his pro day — Rodgers ran a few of the drills — and met with Allen privately.
Concerns about his shoulders aren’t seem to be overwhelming, but a factor.
“The reality is, the success that Nick Saban and his team has had leads to Alabama playing more games and oftentimes more physical games than several other teams throughout the country. …” CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang said. “I don’t think there’s going to be any problem with him fulfilling the first four or five years of his rookie contract. “
Teams using a high pick, though, should want more than that.
Given Pace’s history of drafting super-athletic players in the first round, though, he could prefer Solomon Thomas. The Stanford star is 10 pounds lighter than Allen, and could be more dynamic — but might be a better end in a 4-3 scheme. The 49ers, switching to a 4-3, have been linked to him with the second pick.
Another complicating factor: the Bears need a defensive back, and they simply play more downs than a defensive lineman rotating in and out throughout the game.
Either top safety — LSU’s Jamal Adams or Ohio State’s Malik Hooker — or former Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore would have more opportunities to make an impact.
There’s no denying Allen’s talent, though, or his fit with the Bears.
“What I bring is a winning atmosphere, winning attitude, a leader, a guy who’s going to bust his butt every play,” he said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “A guy who’s looking to come in and make an immediate impact in a positive way.”
POSITION SPOTLIGHT : DL
Rating the Bears’ need: Medium
Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks, Jonathan Bullard, Mitch Unrein, Will Sutton, C.J. Wilson, John Jenkins, Kapron Lewis-Moore
You should know
The Bears say they believe in Bullard, their 2016 third-round pick.
“He knows he needs to have a good offseason; he needs to get stronger; he needs to add weight,” GM Ryan Pace said in January. “But he has some things that we can’t coach, and that’s quickness, the get-off, the burst.”
He didn’t show it last year, ranking 107th out of 127 interior players, per Pro Football Focus grades.
A starting spot is up for grabs. Since Cornelius Washington signed a two-year deal with the Lions, the Bears have merely added nose tackle Jenkins.
Best of the best
Alabama’s Jonathan Allen could go in the top five. Stanford’s Solomon Thomas, who might be a better 4-3 end, might go second overall. Michigan State’s Malik McDowell has faced effort questions, but could be the next lineman picked.
“He was impressive (in the 2016 win against Notre Dame). You see the quickness, the explosiveness, the want-to. Then you watch some other games, it’s like he didn’t want to be out on the field.”
— NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, on McDowell