By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky’s special football season could end in an even more special way at the NFL Draft in Nashville in April.
Josh Allen still has a chance to be the No. 1 overall pick. No, mock drafts are not projecting him No. 1. Most have Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa going first to the Arizona Cardinals. However, most drafts also have Allen going second to San Francisco.
“I really don’t think there is much of a gap between them,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. “Nick had an injury his senior year in high school and an injury this year. Josh Allen is more of a one-year standout. He really came into his own this year. He was a good player before but he became a great player this year. They could go either way in the draft.”
Kiper updated his 2019 mock draft last week and here’s what he posted about Allen going No. 2 to San Francisco: “If the Niners don’t trade down to add more picks, I expect them to take an edge rusher here. And Allen (6-5, 250) is just a step behind Bosa on my board. Two former first-round picks along the defensive line (Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas) have struggled in San Francisco, but neither has the pure pass-rushing ability of Allen, who had 17 sacks and five forced fumbles last season. Allen would fill a glaring need.”
Another ESPN analyst, Todd McShay, also has Allen going No. 2 to the 49ers in his jock draft: “The Niners really want an edge rusher after only DeForest Buckner cracked six sacks for them in 2018 (Buckner had 12). Allen blew up offensive linemen all season en route to 17 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss for the Wildcats. With his big 6-foot-5, 260-pound frame, Allen could line up as a defensive end in the 49ers’ 4-3 scheme if he tacks on some more weight.”
Kiper believes Allen still has a realistic chance to “close the gap” on Bosa for the No. 1 pick.
“Allen had an unbelievable year. It was not like he was not solid before but he became a great player and his numbers improved dramatically,” Kiper said. “He became a one-man wrecking crew and had some really good players on that defense with him but he was the cornerstone of their defense. With his length, speed and kind of kid he is, he’s right there (in the No. 1 conversation).
“Allen fits with what the 49ers really need in an edge rusher. Allen would really help that front seven. I don’t think the 49ers or Jets (who have the No. 3 pick) would want to trade out (and pass on Allen). I think the 49ers will take him at two.”
Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow says Allen’s high profile on draft day will be “huge” for the Kentucky football program since he came to UK as a two-star recruit that had only one other Division I scholarship offer.
“He was a kid that nobody really wanted and to watch his progression to grow to become one of the best college defensive players I have seen in a long time was remarkable,” Marrow said. “Me and Josh got close.
“NFL people want to know what kind of kid they are getting for all this money. I tell them he is one of the most humble kids I have ever seen. When he decided to come back (for his senior season), Josh could have been running around here, going to clubs, hanging out, chasing girls. He was totally opposite. He was leading the married, professional life going into his senior year.”
Allen became the consensus national defensive player of the year, something Marrow said was “great” for him and the program.
“But it was not a surprise. That is what Mark Stoops wanted this program to be. We want to win awards just like kids at Ohio State and Alabama. We can do all that here and Josh proved that,” Marrow said. “Josh is going to change the direction of his family’s life in two months. It can be a generational change for him and to think you helped recruit a kid like that is pretty special. He is ready and I am really excited for him.”