<
>

NFL teams are sleeping on USC's Javorius 'Buck' Allen

3h

Some lucky NFL team is about to get a lot of bang for its “Buck.”

When the league gathers this week for the TV extravaganza the NFL draft has become, it appears Javorius “Buck” Allen, USC’s highly productive 2014 tailback, will not be selected until sometime in the fourth or fifth round.

If, indeed, that is the case, whatever team finally picks Allen might just get the best value selection of the three-day event.

Allen not only will make somebody’s NFL roster this summer, he’ll be raising eyebrows throughout the often dreary exhibition season.

That’s because Allen was the most underrated tailback in recent Trojans history. This is a guy who gained a total of 1,947 yards for USC as a junior. Some 1,489 of that came rushing the football. He gained another 458 yards as a receiver and scored an even dozen touchdowns overall.

At 6-foot-1 and about 225 pounds, Allen is big enough to run between the tackles and quick enough to break big runs outside. A lot of pro scouts questioned his speed, but he quickly silenced them by sprinting a 4.53-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine.

The big, unstated bonus is Allen has great hands. He plucks footballs out of the air like an experienced wide receiver, and that’s what should really set him apart once they start watching him scrimmage this summer.

So why exactly will he last until the fourth or fifth round? Good question.

Certainly, there are backs like Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon who seem to have more raw talent and deserve to be selected higher than Allen. But that still doesn’t explain why Allen shouldn’t go in the second or third round.

I covered the NFL for a long time, and to me, a lot of what happens at the combine is a joke. Guys move up because their vertical jump is a couple inches higher than somebody else’s or because their standing jump is a foot longer.

That’s crazy. Football players should be judged by what they do in games -- not what they accomplish or fail to accomplish at the combine or in some individual workout.

My favorite example of that occurred back in the days when Earl Campbell was running roughshod over everybody for the University of Texas. When Campbell was eligible for the draft, I remember several teams saying they wanted to see how he would do in a private workout. I thought that was hysterical.

All they needed to do was ask any of the hundreds of defensive linemen and linebackers who tried to tackle him in college. Or they could have simply looked at the tape. It didn’t take an expert to recognize Campbell was probably the greatest combination of size, power and speed to come along since the legendary Jim Brown.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not comparing Allen to Campbell. Allen is not in that rare class. But he is the kind of big, durable back with elite pass-catching skills who should have a terrific career in the NFL.

One way or another, it should be an eventful draft for USC players. Leonard Williams, as we all know by now, is likely to be a top three or four selection. No one who has watched the large defensive tackle sack quarterbacks or run down ball carriers denies that.

Nelson Agholor, while maybe not as spectacular as Alabama’s Amari Cooper or as big as West Virginia’s Kevin White, is a true polished wide receiver who can be utilized outside or in the slot. He, too, probably will last longer than he should.

And certainly, linebacker Hayes Pullard and cornerback Josh Shaw will be selected somewhere in the first four or five rounds. Shaw, in fact, might go higher than any Trojan but Williams, despite the strange, still unexplained off-the-field incident that kept him from playing for most of his senior season.

To me, though, it is Allen who will be the biggest surprise of the bunch come fall.

The soft-spoken young man from Tallahassee, Florida, might never have had a chance to demonstrate his skills in college if Lane Kiffin, who had him buried on the depth chart, hadn’t been replaced by interim coach Ed Orgeron. As soon as Orgeron took over, Allen was promoted to the first team, and nobody at USC was ever sorry.

Come Thursday night, sorry is exactly what a bunch of NFL teams eventually will feel if, as expected, they mistakenly bypass “Buck” in the first three or four rounds of the draft.