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Keenan Allen Faceoff

Ari Ingel and Devin Knotts offer differing views of Keenan Allen

The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.

High Side by Ari Ingel

I preached last pre-season that Keenan Allen had Antonio Brown upside and he was proving me right. Before he went down in Week 8 with a lacerated kidney he was on pace for a monster 134/1,450/8 season. Some will try and assign him with the dreaded "injury prone" label, but that just doesn't hold water. In total, throughout his college and NFL career, Allen has only suffered a sprained PCL in 2012, a fractured collarbone in Week 15 in 2014 and then a lacerated kidney in Week 8 of last year. Fractured collarbones and lacerated kidney's are freak accidents; as opposed to players like Arian Foster who has suffered through soft tissue injuries throughout his career or someone like Jordan Reed and his concussion issues. The Chargers felt good enough about Allen's health to extend him well before his rookie deal was up, with a four year, 45 million dollar salary with $20 million of it guaranteed.

Allen stands 6'2", 211lbs and is just starting to enter his prime, turning 24 years old this year. One reason he isn't considered amongst the elites at his position, to this point, and the only reason he was drafted in the third round in the NFL draft, is because he ran a 4.71 forty at his pro day after not being able to run the forty at the combine due to his sprained PCL. To anyone that watches tape, it was clear that he was still hobbled by his knee injury and plays much faster than that poor forty time, even running a 4.56 forty when he came out of high school, where he was a Five Star recruit.

As we mentioned here on Footballguys, this season the Chargers added a legitimate deep threat in Travis Benjamin (5th ranked wide receiver on deep route success rate in Matt Harmon's Reception Perception methodology) to stretch defenses, Antonio Gates is fully healthy and ready to go to occupy the middle of the field while the teams other possession type receiver, Stevie Johnson, just suffered a meniscus tear. Additionally, last year the team's offensive line was decimated by injuries, but projects positively, which should help Rivers be far more productive with the accuracy and depth of his pass attempts. All of this means that Allen should have the opportunity to easily and consistently win one-on-one matchups on the outside, with new Chargers OC Ken Whisenhunt stating that Allen is going to be "a focal point" of the offense.

Last season the Chargers had the number one offense (423.3 yards per game) with Allen in the game and the number twenty-four offense without him (320.4). In the 8 games he played last season he finished the year with a solid 75.3% catch rate and besides Week 2, he had more than 11 fantasy points in every game, with three games scoring more than 29 fantasy points.

For the analytical crowd, let's get into some numbers. Last year Rivers attempted 662 passes due to a leaky defense and a suspect run game. That was almost 100 more pass attempts than his prior five-year average. Unless you are betting on Melvin Gordon resurrecting the run game, the Chargers still have a leaky Defense and should continue to throw the ball a fair amount, most likely reaching close to 600 attempts or more in a league that now emphasizes the pass more than ever. A bet against Gordon, is a bet on this passing game.

Last season Allen saw 29% of the team's targets and while many seem to think he only worked the short area of the field, he actually saw 39% of his targets on deep routes. Pursuant to Matt Harmon's Reception Perception series, Allen had an 80% success rate on post routes, an elite number according to his methodology.

People will still complain that his average depth of target was only 8 yards, but with the offensive line decimated by injuries, it was imperative for Rivers to get the ball out as quick as possible. Allen also finished 14th on Yards Per Route Run (YPRR) according to PFF, ahead of receivers such as Allen Robinson, Martavis Bryant, Amari Cooper, T.Y. Hilton, Brandon Cooks, Dez Bryant and many others. YPRR takes into account the opportunity a player has to gain their receiving yards, showing players who were among the most effective on a per-play basis, but did not have the same playing time opportunities as those that may be the leaders in total receiving yards.

Additionally Allen posted elite-level scores in Matt Harmon's Reception Perception methodology on slants and curl routes, while his 77.1 percent overall success rate versus man coverage is the third best score recorded in Reception Perception history, behind only Odell Beckham Jr. (80.1) and Antonio Brown (79.7). Allen also posted a 79.6 percent success rate versus press coverage and an 82.6 contested catch conversion rate. According to Harmon, "those are numbers of a true anchoring No. 1 receiver." For those wondering, these are better numbers than both Mike Evans and Alshon Jeffery, two receivers often taking ahead of Allen in drafts.

If you are looking for the next Antonio Brown, if you are looking for a safe play in the first two rounds, if you are looking for upside, if you are looking to win your league, Keenan Allen is the player to target.

Low Side by Devin Knotts

There are a lot of things to like about Keenan Allen coming into this season, as in 2015 he was 7th in receiving yards per game and fourth in targets per game. He is being drafted as a top ten wide receiver so far this fantasy season and there are some major concerns that say he is being over-valued so far this year.

There are two key concerns that you should pay attention to when you are considering drafting Keenan Allen this season. The first is injury history, dating back to his final year at Cal this is now the third time in four seasons where Keenan has missed at least two games or more. Each year there are players who are given a discount based on injury history and there are players who people tend to ignore their injury history. So far this season it appears that you will not be getting a discount if you want to take Allen which makes him a difficult selection knowing that there is a high probability that he may miss some time at some point throughout the season.

The second concern that you should pay attention to when you are considering drafting Keenan Allen is the ability to consistently score touchdowns. Allen has averaged 0.42 touchdowns per game over his three-year career in games that he has played. The reason we are using touchdowns per game is to not penalize him for missing games due to injury which we have already discussed is a risk in the first concern. If Allen is able to play all 16 games he will have 6.7 touchdowns this season assuming he stays at his career average touchdown per game ratio. Let's compare this to other wide receivers in the 5-12 range which Allen is likely being taken right in the middle of.

Player Touchdowns Per Game (Career)
Dez Bryant 0.72
Allen Robinson 0.61
A.J. Green 0.59
Mike Evans 0.50
Alshon Jeffery 0.47
Jordy Nelson 0.46
Keenan Allen 0.42
Amari Cooper 0.38

Allen has a lot of upside heading into this season, and is only 24 years old, but with these two major concerns of not being healthy and when he is healthy not scoring enough touchdowns to compete with the other players around him, we would expect a discount that we are just not seeing. His price likely should be in the top 15-20 range for wide receivers instead of the top ten making him a player who you should let others take the risk while you take a more reliable option.