The NFL Combine marched on with Saturday offering up our first opportunity to hear from the 2019 class of defensive linemen. One D-line prospect I was eager to talk to was Boston College’s Zach Allen.
Allen is viewed as kind of a ‘tweener’, in that at 285 pounds he’s too light to play 3-technique and maybe too big to play defensive end in a 4-3. As a possible 3-4 DE, to be a true three-down 5-tech, he’d ideally need to get to 300 pounds to contend regularly with offensive guards in the running game.
Allen is a prospect who’s been compared to Derek Wolfe of the Denver Broncos, for multiple reasons. The first question I asked Allen was Wolfe-oriented, and in his response I learned that he has spent a lot of time studying Wolfe’s game. He lit up at the mention of Wolfe.
“I’ve gotten that comparison a lot,” Allen said Saturday. “I’ve seen him a lot. Our 3-4 front was the same 3-4 front the Broncos run, kind of that odd front where you have a 0 [tech] and two 4i’s. And that 4i, I had a lot of success with my junior year and I watched basically everything he did out of it just because he’s one of the better 4i’s in the league.”
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The Wolfe love from Allen didn’t stop there, though. Allen articulated what set Wolfe apart as a pro player he wanted to model his game after, and compared Wolfe to a much higher-profile player in the AFC West.
“[Wolfe’s] another guy that’s really tremendous,” Allen said. “And also, he’s a hard, hard worker and you admire that. I remember there was interview where they [the Broncos] got beat and he said ‘the next day I was squatting max weight’ and everything. So you respect the hell out of a guy like that. So definitely another guy up there with like a Joey Bosa type, Carlos Dunlap, I could go on and on about guys I’ve watched film on because you want to learn from them.”
Allen told me that he did meet with the Broncos in Indianapolis. I know he garnered the team’s interest with his performance at the Senior Bowl in January. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound trenchman plays with a high motor, but his size and play style make it difficult for teams to project where he fits at the next level.
I view him as a rare defensive lineman that every team needs to have. That high-motor, high football-QB player willing to bring his lunchpail to work every day and do the dirty work that leads to big things.
As a junior Allen posted 100 combined tackles, and over his final three years at Boston College, he produced a whopping 40.5 tackles for a loss. He also posted 16.5 sacks as an interior player in college, which is no small thing.
Allen finished as Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded edge defender in the ACC last year, which is impressive, considering his competition at Clemson and even Florida State. He’s a player a guy like Broncos’ D-line Coach Bill Kollar could mold into a sharp, sharp tool.
Will Allen end up in Denver? It would be a great fit but only time will tell. It’s worth mentioning that Allen does have two connections to Denver in safety Justin Simmons and cornerback Isaac Yiadom, both of whom he played with at Boston College.
It’s great to hear a young interior D-lineman talk so passionately about Derek Wolfe, who has long established himself as a premier run defender and underrated interior pass rusher, but has never received the individual accolades he deserves. He did make a monumental contribution to the Broncos’ World Championship in 2015, though.
That’s what matters most to Derek Wolfe, and after talking to him in person, my guess is that Zach Allen is cut from the same cloth.