Yahoo Sports' top 2019 NFL draft prospects, No. 5: Kentucky EDGE Josh Allen

Yahoo Sports

Leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, which starts April 25, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down 10 at a time, followed by profiles on our top 30 overall players.

Previous entries: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30. Drew Lock | 29. Deandre Baker | 28. Taylor Rapp | 27. Garrett Bradbury | 26. Dexter Lawrence | 25. Jerry Tillery | 24. Josh Jacobs | 23. Christian Wilkins | 22. Cody Ford | 21. Noah Fant | 20. Andre Dillard | 19. Greedy Williams | 18. Dwayne Haskins | 17. Rashan Gary | 16. D.K. Metcalf | 15. Clelin Ferrell | 14. Florida OT Jawaan Taylor | 13. Byron Murphy | 12. Jonah Williams | 11. Devin White | 10. Kyler Murray | 9. Devin Bush Jr. | 8. Montez Sweat | 7. T.J. Hockenson | 6. Ed Oliver

5. Kentucky EDGE Josh Allen

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6-foot-5, 262 pounds

Key stat: Allen broke school records at Kentucky for sacks in a season (17 in 2018) and for his career (31.5), and he’s tied for first with ex-Wildcat Danny Trevathan for career forced fumbles (11).

The skinny: Allen was an unheralded recruit — more on that lower down in the “Fun Fact” section — who arrived at Kentucky as a true freshman and contributed right away in 2015 as a reserve linebacker and on special teams, tallying four tackles (1.5 for loss) and half a sack playing in all 12 games. As a sophomore in 2016, Allen started nine of his 13 games and made 62 tackles (8.5 for loss), a team-best seven sacks and an SEC-best four forced fumbles.

As a junior, Allen accumulated 65 tackles (9.5 for loss), seven sacks, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one interception while starting all 13 games as a second-team all-SEC pick. His game reached a new level as a senior, as Allen won the Nagurski and Bednarik awards, as well as being named the Lott IMPACT award winner (given to the nation’s top defender). He led the team with 88 tackles (21.5 for loss, sixth-best in FBS), 17 sacks (second in the country, and the most by an SEC player since they started counting the stat in 2000) and five forced fumbles (fourth-most in FBS) in also being named to the first-team AP All-American and first-team All-SEC squads.

Allen, who turns 22 in July, committed to the Senior Bowl prior to backing out of the game. He has a 1-year-old son, Wesley, with his girlfriend.

Upside: One of the more improved players in FBS from the 2017 to the 2018 season — went from good player to game-changing talent who forced offenses to account for his whereabouts. Collected more sacks (17) last season than he had in his previous three years combined. Career 11 forced fumbles — active, disruptive hands and great timing to punch balls out. Of all the offensive linemen we informally polled at the NFL scouting combine on who the best pass rusher they faced was, Allen was the runaway winner with the most votes.

Toughness and durability — never missed a game in college and played through pain. Changed his body makeup over his four years — put on more than 50 pounds after reporting as a 210-pound freshman and added more than 20 of those pounds prior to his senior season, allowing him to better handle the rigors of trench life. Athleticism didn’t suffer with the added weight — loose, easy mover who can play on his feet. Possesses a long, broad frame with great reach and good upper-body strength. Combine testing numbers ranged from good to excellent across the board.

Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen (AP Photo)
Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen (AP Photo)

Pass-rush skill is strong. Can win with speed moves and quick get-off but has added to a big bag of tricks to beat tackles in different ways. Creative, diverse rusher — flashed a nice hesitation move last season that could get blockers on skates, as well as a slick inside counter that had a high success rate. Great finishing burst — smells blood and capitalizes more often than not. Can effect plays with multiple pressures seemingly every game, as well as a lot of holding calls drawn. New body composition has allowed him to better harness his power and improve as a run defender. Nice handwork and great football instincts — adept at finding the ball and taking the best angle to the ball. His backside, chase-down speed is legitimate.

Has the makeup of a complete linebacker or edge player — fits the mold of the modern NFL backer or athletic end. Occasionally flashed in coverage and shouldn’t be held back from covering tight ends and backs, as well as dropping in short zones. Hybrid-role potential who can do a little of everything: pressure, set hard edges, cover, tackle effectively and create turnovers. Improved tackler and stickler for details in fundamentals. Thrived under the tutelage of position coach Brad White, who came from the Indianapolis Colts, and wants to continue getting better.

High-motor player with a clutch gene. Went on dominant stretches and took over SEC games. Plays with a closer’s mentality, with 13 of his 17 sacks last season coming in second halves (and with Kentucky involved in a slew of close games). Team captain. Offers a safeness as a prospect given the high level of competition, along with his production, size, character and very good athletic traits. Checks a lot of boxes and won’t be the type of pick to get a GM fired. Has impressed teams in interviews with his professionalism.

Strong athletic pedigree with great family roots in basketball — Allen has two older sisters who played college hoops (LaTorri Hines-Allen, who played at Virginia Tech) and in the WNBA (Myisha Hines-Allen, with the Washington Mystics); and he also has an uncle, Gregory Hines, who starred at Hampton in the early 1980s (and is in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame), was a fifth-round pick of the Golden State Warriors in the 1983 NBA draft and spent 12 years in several pro leagues (CBA, USBL and IBL).

Downside: Very good but perhaps not elite ceiling as a prospect. Still somewhat of a finesse player, even with added mass. Even with added core strength, Allen still will cave at the point of attack — must learn how better to stack and shed blocks. He can get washed out on wide run plays and leave cutback lanes vacant. Lacks ideal power and has remarkably small hands — measured only 8 3/4 inches, which you might normally find with slot receivers, punt returners and nickel corners.

Opponents favored cut-blocking him, and his agility didn’t always translate to avoiding those attempts. Spin move is still crude and relatively ineffective. Earned some coverage sacks — Kentucky had a loaded secondary with five draftable DBs, which certainly helped his cause. Not yet a true playmaker in coverage — only one interception in 51 career games and most of his passes defended come when he’s getting his hands up near the line of scrimmage. Still learning how to fine-tune his man coverage, especially downfield.

Best-suited destination: We think Allen’s best fit might come in a 3-4 system where he’s asked to rush, defend the run and drop in a playmaking role on his feet. He also easily could be used as a 4-3 end, and even be tried as a bigger linebacker (think Anthony Barr with the Vikings), but it might not fully maximize his skills without a smart defensive coordinator making the calls.

Ideally, Allen will be mostly unleashed as a pass rusher, but his versatility is also one of his hallmarks. He carries widespread appeal as a relatively safe, accountable pick with good upside and will be highly sought by teams such as the New York Giants, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers (if they trade down), Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals.

Fun fact: After playing three years of high school ball in Alabama while living with his aunt and uncle, Allen moved back to New Jersey, which is where he had grown up in a crowded household. His early passion for basketball was strong, but he continued to pursue football and was having success in his newfound sporting love.

Despite a monster senior season — including 22.5 sacks and 43.5 tackles for loss for an unbeaten Montclair team — and having previously earned all-state mention as a wide receiver, Allen nonetheless was tabbed as only a two-star recruit and earned one FBS offer (Buffalo) initially. Wanting to stay closer to home at first at the request of his mother, Allen committed to FCS-level Monmouth about an hour away. Allen’s dream school at the time, Rutgers, paid him little attention in recruiting.

In the days leading up to Signing Day, Kentucky visited and — with some other recruits reneging on their commitments — offered him a scholarship rather quickly. Allen accepted soon after and made Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops look like a very smart man. Rutgers, on the other hand, has seen its program fall off precipitously since that time.

They said it: “[The best player I faced] this year was definitely Josh Allen of Kentucky. He's a great player. And he brings a lot of things to the game.”

Florida OT Jawaan Taylor, a first-round prospect

Player comp: Ryan Kerrigan

Expected draft range: Top-10 pick

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