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Kiper: Allen won't slide past Jaguars


JACKSONVILLE – When it comes to Jonathan Allen, don't worry about all the worry.

That was the gist of what ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on Wednesday about the player he projects for the Jaguars at No. 4 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.

That's Allen, a defensive end from Alabama.

Kiper, ESPN's long-time NFL Draft analyst, projected Allen to the Jaguars with the fourth selection of Round 1 of his latest 2017 mock draft Wednesday. He projected Texas defensive end Myles Garrett to Cleveland at No. 1 overall, with Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas to San Francisco at No. 2 and Ohio State safety Malik Hooker to Chicago at No. 3.

Allen long has been a popular projection by mockers to the Jaguars, but there has been speculation in recent weeks that shoulder issues could cause him to slide.

Kiper doesn't see that happening.

"It's not going to hurt him," Kiper said. "It's something you might worry about 10-20 years down the road. With an NFL team, you want to say, 'OK, how's going to be now and moving forward in five, seven eight years? Jonathan Allen will be fine."

ESPN's other prominent analyst, Todd McShay, projected Louisiana State running back Leonard Fournette to the Jaguars at No. 4 overall. Allen and Fournette in recent weeks have been among the more popular selections the Jaguars at No. 4.

The theory regarding the Jaguars selecting Fournette is he is a back around whom an offense can be built, and who perhaps is a once-a-decade talent at the position. The Jaguars have struggled in the running game in recent seasons.

The theory around Allen is Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin's belief in a strong, deep defensive line. Allen would join a line that includes players such as strong-side end Calais Campbell – who signed as an unrestricted free agent from Arizona last month – and rush ends Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue and tackles Abry Jones and Malik Jackson.

Kiper called Allen "a tremendously mature kid."

"He obviously has great talent and had a great year," Kiper said. "The great thing about Allen is he gives you that three-technique [tackle]. If you're Jacksonville, and you're picking in the Top Five where they are at No. 4, they already added Calais Campbell.

"I think Jonathan Allen would fit what they want to do. He's an interior presence and he can get after the quarterback up the gut, which is the worst pressure a quarterback can have."

Of the shoulder issue, Kiper added, "I have not heard anybody say that's going to push him down significantly. If he does drop beyond the Top Five or Six, then you look back and say, 'Maybe it was.' But I don't see him dropping past Chicago at three or Jacksonville at four."

Also Wednesday:

*Kiper said while three running backs – Fournette, Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford – could be selected in the first round, that doesn't change the idea that running backs can be acquired later in the draft. "[2016 first-round selection] Ezekiel Elliott had a great year [for the Dallas Cowboys], but 11 of the 12 playoff teams [in 2016] didn't have a first-round running back," Kiper said. "If the player has Todd Gurley-type of ability, or Ezekiel Elliott-type of ability, then you're going to go [in Round 1]. … I don't know if Fournette will be as consensus as a super-elite back as those two were, but I still think he's a Top 10 back.''

*Kiper called Pittsburgh quarterback Nate Peterman, who played locally at Bartram Trail High School in Jacksonville, perhaps the quarterback in the '17 draft who can play the quickest. "From a mental standpoint and knowing the game, I think he gets an edge," Kiper said. …

*Kiper discussed Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has been projected anywhere from a Top 10 selection to being selected early in the second round. Watson reportedly is among a group of players visiting EverBank Field Thursday. Kiper said he believes the most likely teams to select Watson are Cleveland at No. 12 and Arizona at No. 13. …

*Kiper said he agrees with analysts who say the '17 draft is strong on defense, particularly at cornerback. He said as many as 35 cornerbacks could be selected in the seven-round draft. "The defense is going dictate a lot about the early portion of Round 1, and really all the way through," Kiper said. "There are some really good defensive players."  …

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