ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — An early run on offensive players worked in the Washington Redskins' favor, allowing them to try to boost their lackluster defense by picking versatile Alabama lineman Jonathan Allen with the 17th overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday night.
Allen can play inside or outside along the line and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2016, but there were medical concerns about shoulder problems that affected his draft stock.
On a call with reporters shortly after he was chosen, Allen played down the health issue.
"It hasn't affected me, especially this last year. I didn't even wear a brace for the season. Every team I've talked to, shoulders were medically cleared. No problem," Allen said. "Probably the best I've felt in the last four years, to be honest."
Still, he acknowledged: "I feel like it was definitely in some teams' minds."
Asked about his longer-than-expected wait at the draft in Philadelphia, Allen said — without any apparent hint of irony — "It's tough, but when you do get that phone call, it's definitely a load off your shoulders."
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 286 pounds, Allen said he tries to model his play after Aaron Donald of the Rams and Geno Atkins of the Bengals.
Allen could instantly upgrade a defensive line that was one of the biggest weaknesses on a Redskins team that went 8-7-1 and failed to make the playoffs last season, a year after winning the NFC East. And Chris Baker departed as a free agent, while Ricky Jean Francois was released.
"I'm looking to come in and make an immediate impact," said Allen, who is from nearby Leesburg and said he remembers coming to watch quarterback Donovan McNabb practice with the Redskins.
"You read about in books," he said of joining his favorite childhood team. "It doesn't even seem real."
Washington's defense ranked 28th in the league and was particularly poor on third downs and against the run. The team fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry right after the season and made some additions in free agency on that side of the ball, signing linemen Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain and safety D.J. Swearinger.
Now the Redskins have brought in Allen in hopes of continuing the makeover.
He arrived with the first of 10 picks held by Washington, which fired general manager Scot McCloughan early last month, halfway through his four-year deal. No replacement GM has been announced by the team, leaving team president Bruce Allen and Scott Campbell among those with key input during the draft.
Eight of the top 12 picks in the first round Thursday night were on offense, sending some of the top defensive talent tumbling.
Allen was part of a run of six consecutive defenders selected.
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