Former Penn State safety Marcus Allen is a bit of an enigma when it comes to the upcoming NFL draft.
Some mock drafts, such as the most recent from Draft Wire, peg him as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-round pick. Others have him going in the fourth round — or even later.
So what could Allen’s NFL career look like? And where might he go? Well, just like we did with tight end Mike Gesicki and wideout DaeSean Hamilton, we decided to see what past NFL safeties were most like Allen based solely on pre-draft measurables and then see how they fared.
Since 2000, 239 other safeties have taken part in the NFL Combine — and we picked out the three drafted players whose numbers most resembled Allen’s. What we looked for were safeties who were within an inch of Allen’s height (6-foot-2), were within 10 pounds of his weight (215) and boasted similar numbers in the 40, broad jump and vertical. Specifically, we wanted players who ran between a 4.59 and 4.65 (Allen: 4.59 in Holuba Hall), were within three inches of Allen’s 37-inch vertical and were within five inches of his 127-inch broad jump.
Here’s who we came up with:
Michael Lewis, 2002 to 2010
College/Drafted by: Colorado/Philadelphia Eagles (Round 2, Pick 58)
Combine height/weight: 6-foot-1/211 pounds
40 time/vertical/broad: 4.60/36.5/122
College stats in last season: 112 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles-for-loss, 3 forced fumbles, 7 pass breakups
Synopsis: Stop me if this sounds familiar: Lewis was more of a hitter than a cover guy, he spent a lot of time in the box, and he was a good tackler who racked up the stops. In fact, in college, he finished his career ninth all-time at Colorado in tackles with 336. (Allen is fifth at PSU with 321.)
Lewis was taken two spots before Draft Wire projects Allen to go — 58th overall compared to 60th — and Lewis made an immediate splash as a rookie. He started four games, made 49 tackles and progressed quickly enough to take over as the starter the next season. By 2004, he was a Pro Bowler who started alongside fan favorite Brian Dawkins in Super Bowl 39.
He had a reputation for not being incredibly flashy but getting the job done. That reputation started to wane, however, after four solid seasons in the NFL. He struggled in 2006 after giving up some big plays and then signed with the San Francisco 49ers the next year. He bounced back, again becoming a regular starter until 2010, when he reportedly asked for his release and was scooped up by the St. Louis Rams for a few more months before his retirement.
He finished his career with 681 tackles, 11.5 sacks and 12 interceptions. PennLive ranked the Eagles’ 2002 draft, in which it grabbed Lewis, as its second-best all-time draft class.
Dawan Landry, 2006 to 2014
College/Drafted by: Georgia Tech/Baltimore Ravens (Round 5, Pick 146)
Combine height/weight: 6-foot-1/220 pounds
40 time/vertical/broad: 4.64/37.5/124
College stats in last season: 76 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss, 4 interceptions, 5 pass breakups, 2 fumble recoveries
Synopsis: A tackling machine who started every collegiate game his last three seasons and who was all-conference as a senior — yes, we’re talking about Landry here — the Louisiana native was known as an in-the-box strong safety, a player who shined at run support but was a liability in coverage.
He landed in a great situation with the Ravens’ top defense, and he was a solid player who was especially feared early in his career. As a rookie, he started alongside future Hall of Famer Ed Reed and even earned a vote for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
He complemented Reed well and turned in solid season after solid season. He missed most of 2008 after a gruesome spinal concussion injury, but he rebounded with another good 89-tackle season in 2009. In 2010, he recorded a career-high 111 tackles, finishing second on the team behind linebacker Ray Lewis.
After that, though, in 2011, as his coverage issues grew as did his salary demands, he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars for $27.5 million over five years. He turned in two relatively good seasons, in which he had 97 tackles and 100 tackles, respectively, but was released afterward. He signed with the New York Jets, started for two seasons while racking up 207 more tackles, but he never improved in coverage. Although he was affectionately known by teammates as “The Mentor,” opposing quarterbacks completed 72.5 percent of their passes on him and he rarely made big plays.
He was released afterward, visited the Buffalo Bills but never played again. He finished his career with 766 tackles, 38 pass deflections and 13 interceptions.
Eric Smith, 2006 to 2012
College/Drafted by: Michigan State/New York Jets (Round 3, Pick 97)
Combine height/weight: 6-foot-1/209 pounds
40 time/vertical/broad: 4.63/40/127
College stats in last season: 101 tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss, 2 interceptions, 4 pass breakups
Synopsis: Heading into the NFL draft, Smith was ranked as the No. 9 safety and the No. 190 prospect overall. Allen is No. 10 and No. 139, respectively.
Smith’s pre-draft scouting report on Sports Illustrated mirrored Allen’s on NFL.com: “Aggressive safety best in run support. Displays an excellent head for the ball and goes hard until the whistle blows. ... Does more trailing than covering in pass defense.”
Unlike Allen, there were questions about Smith’s durability. But Smith put those to rest early on. He played in 15 games as a rookie, with 27 tackles, and earned more time on the field the next season when he started four games and had 40 stops.
For most of his career, he was known as a solid run-stopping backup and a mainstay on special teams. Between 2008 and 2010, he started between four and six games every season. He was special teams captain in 2010 and 2011, started 14 games in 2011 — but watched his career essentially come to an end after some injury issues in 2012. He served as an intern coach for the Jets in 2014 and as an assistant special teams coach for the Buffalo Bills for two seasons.
He finished his seven-year NFL playing career with 306 tackles, 25 pass deflections and six interceptions.