The 2013 NFL Draft may have just changed for the Tennessee Titans and the AFC South. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported today that Cal WR Keenan Allen was red-flagged for a drug test while at the NFL Combine. An unnamed league source said that Allen had “suspiciously high levels of water in his system.” According to the NFL, he was then administered another drug test this month, the results of which are still unknown.
So what does all this really mean for Allen? The “suspiciously high levels of water” may indicate to NFL drug testers that Allen was attempting to dilute his urine sample. It would not be the first or last time a person has tried to thwart a drug test in this manner, but it hardly seems like conclusive evidence to vilify the talented Cal WR, especially considering that he’s never had any issues in college.
He could have been trying to remain hydrated during the rehab process of his knee, or he could have been trying to maximize his weight at the Combine (he’s pretty lean). I concede that neither of these two possibilities is likely, but the point is that the “evidence” against him seems to be even thinner than his frame.
But the damage may already be done. Having any sort of red flags can compel NFL teams to more critically scrutinize a prospect. Allen’s offseason has already been tough. He hurt his knee against Utah in 2012, and he subsequently missed the last three games of the season. He then reinjured the same knee in January while rehabbing, causing him to miss another 3-4 weeks of football-related drills. He was not able to participate at the Combine, and at his Pro Day last week he ran a disappointing 4.71 40-yard dash.
Allen was once in the discussion as the top WR prospect in this year’s draft class. NFL guru Mike Mayock still rates him as the #3 prospect, but many NFL teams may be devaluing him based on medical and drug test concerns. Allen had largely been linked in mock drafts to the Texans in the 1st round, but there’s now a strong possibility that he falls into the 2nd. Prospects Tavon Austin, Cordarrelle Patterson, DeAndre Hopkins, Robert Woods, Justin Hunter, Quinton Patton, and Terrance Williams could all be drafted before Allen, making him the 8th WR taken.
There are several reasons why the Titans should consider Allen if he continues to fall on draft day. He has only been back to football activities for a month now, and his knee is responding excellently to rehab. His recent Pro Day shows that he still has acceleration and burst to gain, but he’s not a speed receiver to begin with. His style is similar to Anquan Boldin, who also ran exactly 4.71. He’s a smooth receiver with excellent route-running skills, and he excels at catching the ball at its highest point. He will continue to gain strength and explosion, and the failed drug test may turn out to be nothing.
I don’t see Allen slipping past the 2nd round, but he could fall far enough to prompt the Titans to trade back into the 2nd. He never had any off-the-field issues at Cal, so this drug test may just be an aberration. With his size and catching radius, he could be the Kenny Britt insurance policy that so many Titans fans have been discussing.
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