If college film was 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 posted 27½ sacks in his last three years at Alabama. In his four years with the Crimson Tide, the team never finished below sixth nationally in scoring defense.
Allen likely is the safest pick the Bears could make when they select third overall in next week’s draft.
At 6-3, 286 pounds, he could slide into a starting role 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 in nickel-and-dime sets to rush the passer.
General manager Ryan Pace, who used a second-round pick to acquire 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.
The Bears are comfortable with his medical reports, as they sent defensive coordinator 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 don’t seem to be a major problem, but could play a factor long-term.
“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, Solomon Thomas might be a better choice. 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 Thomas with the second pick.
Another problem is that the Bears need a defensive back. They play more downs than a defensive lineman rotating in-and-out throughout the game.
The draft’s top safeties — 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 talents, though.
“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.”
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Rating Bears’ need
Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks, Jonathan Bullard, Mitch Unrein, Will Sutton, C.J. Wilson, John Jenkins, Kapron Lewis-Moore.
You should know
The Bears have faith 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,” general manager Ryan Pace said in January. “But he has some things that we can’t coach, and that’s quickness, the get-off, the burst.”
Bullard 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. And since Cornelius Washington signed a two-year deal with the Lions, nose tackle Jenkins is the only addition to the defensive line.
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, who has faced questions regarding his effort, could go third.
“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