Atlanta Falcons 2014 Rookie Scouting Report: Ricardo AllenA breakdown of the Atlanta Falcons 2014 fifth-round selection, former Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen.
40 Time: 4.61 (Combine)
Three-Cone: 6.90 (Campus)
Ricardo Jamal Allen was born on December 18, 1991 and attended Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Florida.
He immediately earned playing time as a true freshman at Purdue with 12 starts as a freshman. He recorded 73 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack, three interceptions and four pass breakups. Two of his interceptions went back for scores, helping him earn second team All-Big Ten honors. He followed that up with honorable mention honors as a sophomore, starting 13 games with 81 tackles, three for loss, 3 interceptions, four pass breakups and a blocked field goal. He had another interception returned for a touchdown that year as well. He would once again be considered an all-conference honorable mention player as a junior with 11 starts in 13 appearances. He finished that year with 45 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, one interception returned for a touchdown and four pass breakups. As a senior he started all 12 games with 53 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, six interceptions, three pass breakups and a forced fumble. He also earned second team All-Big Ten honors for the second time in his career. During his career at Purdue, he also returned a pair of punts for a combined 32 yards. He finished his career second in school history with 13 career interceptions and tied for Big Ten record with four interceptions returned for a touchdown.
Noted as a hard working, football-first player that was without a doubt the best defensive player on Purdue’s defense last year. He played in East-West Shrine All-Star Game this past January and fared relatively well. Also had an impressive 37-inch vertical at his pro day.
2013 GAMES WATCHED
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The grading system is based on a 10-point scale: 1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite.
Speed (5.5) – Allen is by no means a blazer and will have difficulty keeping up with the fastest NFL receivers, but his speed is more than a capable of making him a competitive player at the next level. He can get beat on the deep pass, but less due to being slow rather because his technique can be shoddy when trying to turn and run.
Man Coverage (5.0) – Can match up in man coverage against quality receivers but lacks tools to be a lockdown corner. Lack of height and ideal speed will make it harder for him to match up against the bigger, as well as speedier receivers at the next level. Has decent hips and burst out of his breaks but did not show the sort of suddenness you prefer in an undersized corner to make up for his height deficiency. Has experience playing in the slot. Can play press, but not a threat to really get the jam at the line.
Zone Coverage (7.0) – Most comfortable playing off the line of scrimmage and when he can keep things in front of him. Most of his plays in coverage come with him sitting back, reading the quarterback and jumping throwing lanes. Has a good feel for playing in space that accentuate his ball skills.
Tackling (6.0) – Willing in run support and does a good job playing his assignments. Will break down and try to tackle bigger backs and not afraid to stick his neck out. Only suffers from the fact that he’s not very big and simple physics dictate that it will be difficult for him to tackle larger NFL backs and receivers.
Ball Skills (7.0) – Does a good job locating the ball in the air and has a knack for making a play on it when he’s in position. When he’s in tight man coverage, he will contest throws consistently. Plays with good awareness and recognition against the pass when playing in space and is also able to shoot gaps when playing near the line of the scrimmage to make stops against the run.
Based off my own grading system on a 9-point scale.
Potential Stopgap Prospect (3.4) – Player with enough tools that sticking at the NFL level should not be a huge obstacle, but how long he sticks will largely depend on ability to impact early on special teams. Tends to be journeymen player that has enough ability that he can become a stopgap starter for a limited period of time. Ideal target for the last three rounds of draft, although typically become harder to find after the sixth round.
Allen’s experience playing in the slot over his final two seasons at Purdue should help him transition to a similar role at the next level.
The biggest obstacle for Allen is his lack of size, as he’ll likely struggle as he often did in college against the bigger wideouts. It’s why playing inside in the slot is his likeliest destiny since he’ll struggle against the bigger wideouts that typically play on the outside in the NFL.
But that is changing as more and more players like Anquan Boldin, Calvin Johnson, Marques Colston and Vincent Jackson are getting extend reps inside in the slot in the NFL.
The main key for Allen is going to be improving his technique, as he’ll have to do extra with his technique and footwork to make up for his physical limitations.
It’s there that some comparisons could be made to Brent Grimes. While they share similar size and on paper and their athleticism is similar when comparing pro day results, Allen never quite popped on tape as a “plus” athlete like Grimes did in Atlanta.
Grimes was able to make it in the league because he was able to really polish up his footwork and technique to compensate for his lack of size. Given his athleticism and ball skills, it made him into a much better cornerback than a 5’9″ guy from Shippensburg should have been.
But Grimes’ success did not come overnight. He spent a year each on the practice squad and in NFL Europe honing his craft before really garnering any significant reps in Atlanta. Then he seemingly struggled his first year as a starter in 2008, but managed to overcome that and play much better in 2009 and eventually become the top corner we now know him as in 2010.
Thus, if Allen is going to be a player like Grimes, it’ll likely take multiple seasons for him to get there. Years that he will likely need to be on the bench producing on special teams. If Allen can produce early there, that can buy himself the two or three years he may need before he can be expected to impact on defense.
But players like Grimes are so rare, the sorts of self-made players that manage to overcome multiple obstacles on a path to NFL success, makes it difficult and ultimately foolish to predict the same for Allen.
FALCONS FORECASTInstead of Grimes, the best comparison I can make in regard to Allen’s NFL future is Robert McClain.
McClain was a seventh-round pick that performed well as a rookie on special teams for the Carolina Panthers, but with a new coaching staff brought in his second year, he did not make the team and finished the season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He landed with the Falcons the following offseason and you should know the rest.
So like Grimes, McClain was another player that needed time to develop before he hit his stride in 2012 in Atlanta. The same will likely be the case for Allen.
And similar to McClain, it’s Allen’s ball skills that stand out on film. So much so that I think he too could make a transition to safety. However, unlike McClain, Allen lacks core strength (McClain had 23 bench reps at his collegiate pro day, Allen had 13 at the Combine). But Allen has the sort ball skills, instincts and toughness versus the run that if he was a few inches taller and about 10 pounds heavier, he would be a good candidate to play safety in dime sub-packages.
He’ll never be a full-time safety, but because of his ability to work in zone and play the slot, he could be a valuable option in the dime with six defensive backs are on the field. As the league exists today, the nickel sub-package is the new base, as teams played with three wide receivers roughly 60 percent of the time in 2013. In the future, it may become that dime is the new base if teams continue to spread the field and throw more. If that comes to fruition, Allen could become more valuable to the Falcons down the road than he currently is now.
Because right now, Allen just offers another depth guy and special teams candidate. He’s very similar to McClain, Josh Wilson and Javier Arenas in being an undersized cornerback that is ideally suited to playin in the slot. Given the presence of three veterans ahead of him and two second-year starters in Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, Allen could be hard-pressed to make the Falcons final roster this year.
That is unless he can quickly show he can earn a spot on special teams. He could become an effective gunner on punt coverage as well as help out on kick coverage.
Depending on his defensive play early on in practices and training camp could determine his future in his second year and beyond. McClain, Wilson and Arenas are all impending free agents, and if Allen has a strong first summer with the Falcons on defense, it could prompt the team to let all three walk in free agency. That would put Allen in the driver’s seat to being the team’s nickel corner in 2015.
I suspect regardless of his play, at some point Allen will get the opportunity to earn and win the nickel job, playing inside. If not in 2015, then 2016 is a relatively safe bet. But ultimately I don’t see him faring any better than McClain has, who had a great 2012 but a subpar 2013.
Allen instead looks like ideally a fourth or fifth cornerback in the rotation, a player that can help out on special teams and play in the nickel if the team is in a pinch, but would likely get exposed more often than not against the tougher slot receivers in the NFC like Boldin, Johnson, Colston and Jackson.