This post continues our series on USC's draft prospects. We've previously discussed Stephon Gilmore, Alshon Jeffery, and Melvin Ingram. Today, we're discussing Antonio Allen. Allen is beloved among Gamecocks fans for his knack for the big play, particularly a nasty forced fumble against Alabama's Greg McElroy in 2010 and the INTs he returned for TDs against Clemson in 2010 and Georgia in 2011. Now, he's getting some love from the NFL scouts as a solid mid-round pick. I was watching ESPN while on the elliptical at the gym yesterday evening, and Mel Kiper and Todd McShay had him as their third and fifth safety, respectively. Let's take a closer look at what he brings to the Draft.
Although his tackling form needs a little work, Allen projects as an excellent run-stopping S in the pros. He's a hard hitter and is willing to get physical in order to get to the ball carrier. His pass coverage skills aren't great, but they're solid. One thing that stands out is that he has excellent ball skills. When he has a play on the ball, he oftentimes comes down with it, and he's proven to be a heady player when it comes to making a play after the turnover.
Like others who play the Spur position at Carolina, Allen projects as a tweener in the NFL. The spur is kind of like a combo LB / S, and a lot of Allen's best skills are fitted for the LB position, which he's too small to play in the NFL. He has the speed to play S as a pro, but his pass coverage is average. He sometimes gets out of position and bites on fakes. He's still a bit of a development project in that regard. It may take him some time to grow into being a safety full-time.
Due to relatively average pass-coverage skills, Allen won't start for most NFL teams in his first year or two. Therefore, he won't go early. However, some of his deficiencies owe to the fact that he played multiple positions in college, and based on his performance late in his career at USC, I think he'll be able to grow into the safety role over time. That makes him a good mid-round prospect.