INDIANAPOLIS — The help the New England Patriots need at defensive end could come from right up the road in Chesnut Hill.
Boston College’s Zach Allen is one of several highly touted edge rushers available in the 2019 NFL Draft class, and he’s on the Patriots’ radar as draft night approaches.
Allen met with New England representatives at the Senior Bowl and briefly at the NFL Scouting Combine, and he plans to have additional talks with the team this week at BC’s pro day, an event always well-attended by the Patriots.
Projected to come off the board within the first two rounds, the New Canaan, Conn., native would fit in nicely on a Pats team that lacked quality depth at D-end in 2018 and could lose star Trey Flowers in free agency.
Allen stands 6-foot-4, 281 pounds and can play multiple spots along the defensive line. He primarily was an interior rusher as a junior in 2017, racking up an impressive 100 tackles, 15 1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks, then shifted the edge as a senior after Harold Landry left for the NFL. He thrived in that role, too, tallying 6 1/2 sacks, 15 TFLs and 54 total pressures in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus. His pressure count was the fifth-highest among ACC edge defenders.
The Patriots value positional versatility, which is part of what’s made Flowers such a productive player for them.
“The good news was at BC, I really did it all,” Allen said last week at the combine. “A lot of stand-up zero, three (technique), five, nine, 4-3, 3-4, the whole deal. So I’ve heard it all. I’m absolutely fine with whatever a team wants. I just want to come in and help a team win. I think one of my intriguing traits is I can do it all if a team might need me for multiple positions. So I’m definitely open and willing.”
He added: “I think my senior year tape really showed some versatility with my pass-rushing moves.”
The evaluators at PFF are particularly high on Allen. According to the advanced stats service, his overall grade ranks eighth among the 343 FBS edge defenders since 2014 who played at least 1,000 defensive snaps. His run defense grade ranks third among that group.
Allen also displayed a nose for the ball at BC, intercepting two passes and batting down 14 over his three seasons as a defensive contributor. Seven of those PBUs came in his senior year, during which he devoured film of Houston Texans swat master J.J. Watt.
“Every Friday before games this year, I’d watch (Watt’s) most recent game just to learn from him,” Allen said. “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to learn from the best. He’s the best doing it right now. Luckily, having Coach (Paul) Pasqualoni for two years, right after he came from Houston, I was able to pick his brain a little bit about what made J.J. so great. I really think that’s kind of what helped my game my junior and senior year. He’s a tremendous player and definitely somebody I look up to.”
A film junkie, Allen also took cues from other NFL pass rushers he respects. His list of influences includes Watt, Derek Wolfe, Carlos Dunlap, Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Ryan Kerrigan and DeMarcus Lawrence.
“If you just are able to pick little parts of each game,” Allen said, “maybe not their whole game, but you want to learn how they do this one move or this one thing, then you’re able to just create what works for you and play with confidence. I think that’s huge.”
Allen isn’t an elite athlete, but he tested well in the short-area quickness drills at the combine, ranking sixth among all defensive linemen in both the short shuttle (4.36 seconds) and the three-cone drill (7.34). His arm length (34 3/4 inches) also is well above average for his position.
Asked about the prospect of joining the Patriots, Allen, who’s from the Giants half of Connecticut, said he’d love to continue his career in the Boston area.
“Obviously, they’re the Super Bowl champs,” Allen said. “They know how to win. Great program. Boston was a really good city to me and to my family. Also being in the same locker room as the greatest of all time would be pretty cool to learn from, both the coach (Bill Belichick) and the quarterback (Tom Brady). So the Patriots would be a great choice.”
The Patriots currently own the 32nd overall pick in the first round, plus two more selections in the second (Nos. 56 and 64).
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