The Arizona Cardinals decided to bolster their defensive line by adding Boston College’s Zach Allen with pick No. 65 overall.
The Arizona Cardinals went the best player available route in selecting Boston College’s defensive lineman Zach Allen, a player many thought could go as high as the first. Allen looks to be a good fit in the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense as a “hand in the dirt” defensive end.
Standing at 6-foot-4 with a 281-pound frame with 34-3/4-inch arms, Allen passes the size and length tests with flying colors. Though he’s not a twitchy athlete, he tested well at the combine to the tune of a 5.00 second 40-yard-dash, 24 225-pound bench press reps, 32-inch vertical, 112-inch broad jump, and 7.34-second three-cone-drill.
While at Boston College, Allen showed improvement in every season and finished his college career tallying 18.0 sacks, 33 QB hits, and 65 hurries, per Pro Football Focus. The edge defender finished his senior season with a 90.9 PFF grade, and an outside pressure in every 13.4 snaps, good for 18th in the class, per PFF.
As a pass-rusher, Allen is more of a power and skill guy than a speed rusher that reels around the edge. Again, he’s not an explosive athlete, but, he has a good initial step and knows how to use leverage to will himself to quarterbacks. Although he may be a tweener at sub-300 pounds, his cerebral playstyle coupled with toughness and tenacity should make him a natural fit as an end in the 3-4.
Although I don’t project Allen to ever lead the NFL in sacks, I view him as a very similar player to Broncos’ end Derek Wolfe due to his run-stuffing prowess. Per PFF, Allen had 122 run-stuffs in his BC career and ranked 25th in the class in run-stop rate at 8.4%.
Allen has ideal characteristics as a run-stuffer; he’s long, tough, skilled, and knows where to put himself at the right time. Because of those traits, Allen doesn’t just project as the best player available draft pick, he also projects as a player to fill a team need.
The 2018 Cardinals allowed 154.9 rushing yards per game and allowed 25 rushing touchdowns for the year. The 2019 Cardinals will likely avoid a repeat in the bottom tier of these categories. Not only did they draft Allen, but the newly hired defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is also switching the scheme to a more favorable 3-4 defense.
Drafting a 3-4 interior defensive lineman isn’t the flashy pick, but in the Cardinals case, it’s the right pick to help fix a once-broken defense. Zach Allen could start as soon as day-one for a much-improved defense.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, subscribe
to PFF’s EDGE or ELITE subscriptions at ProFootballFocus.com.