Saban discusses Allen pick

Here is what Coach Nick Saban had to say after the Dolphins drafted defensive back Jason Allen in the first round of the 2006 draft.

Opening Remarks

"First of all, let me say that we're extremely, extremely pleased and happy that we were able to select Jason Allen in the first round this year. He was one of the top players on our board.  We had 12 or 13 players that we felt that were a cut above maybe, at least on our rankings that we could have selected. Jason Allen was really one of the players that we had targeted based on the need that we have.  One of the things that we like about him, and you've heard me say this before, he has a tremendous amount of versatility as a player.  His size and speed allow him to be a guy that maybe is able to play corner for us. He's also played safety for a year. He's also played the star position, their fifth defensive back. He's an outstanding blitzer, very good tackler.  He is very aggressive and has worked out extremely well for most teams.

"I'm sure you're interested -– did we try to trade down? We really didn't try to trade down.  We had an opportunity to trade down and decided to pick the player that we had targeted for that position.  We're extremely happy that this worked out the way it did.  There were a lot of good players.  They pretty much got picked.  There were a few surprises like we felt there would be and we were just very hopeful that one of those 12 or 13 guys that we had targeted, one of them would get to our spot at 16 and we're certainly pleased that Jason Allen was in that position. 

"I've known this young man ever since high school.  You know that we recruited him.  He came to our camp.  I've been in his home.  This is an outstanding young man.  He's got great leadership qualities.  He's got great character.  They couldn't say enough good things about him at Tennessee and he certainly had an outstanding career.  I'm sure there's probably some questions about any time a player is injured.  I want to say that our medical staff here, I'm talking about the doctors and the trainers, did a fantastic job of getting outstanding information for us so that we could put a medical risk on this guy that we would feel comfortable in the position that we're in being able to select him.

On whether Allen will play strong safety, free safety or a combination of both

"Our goal is going to be to put the best four [defensive backs] on the field on regular downs. We played five defensive backs 48 percent of the time last year, so that is certainly a guy that you would have to consider to be a starter, whoever that fifth DB is, who we refer to as the Star. We feel like Jason has the versatility to play all three of these positions. We're not saying that we've decided right now where we will put him. We will probably look at him at several positions and make a decision very quickly after the mini-camp as to what the best position is for him."

On how high Allen graded

"He was in our top category of players, which that has 12 or 13 players in it."

On whether there was any one feature of Allen that jumped out to him

"He's got size and speed, tremendous ball skills and he a physical, tough, instinctive football player. If we define the criteria that we look at for this position, I am talking about defensive back now, the three critical factors -– can the guy judge the ball? He's got very good ball judgment. Is he a good tackler? This guy is not only a good tackler, he's physical and aggressive in attacking in the way he goes about it and he has the size to be physical. The third thing is can the guy play man-to-man? I think the fact that he played corner, can play safety because of his size and speed and ball skills, now you have a cover safety as well as a guy who has tremendous range and size and speed if he plays that position. He certainly covered well in the SEC, which has some pretty decent receivers."

On why addressing the secondary this offseason has been a priority

"Well, I don't know that it was a pressing priority.  I think we picked the best player that we could pick.  If we would have picked, based on priority, we were hoping that a front-seven player that was in this caliber of players for us would be available.  If you're going to put my feet to the fire, I would personally always pick big people, always big people.  There's fewer of them, defensive linemen, those types of people.  But again this was not a priority. This was the best player available to us, for us to pick. So we took the quality player, the long term value to the organization. So it was not picked based on need, although we think it can fit very nicely for us because of the diversity the player has. We're extremely pleased and happy to have the guy.  So if you ask me if we had last year's second pick, no disrespect to Ronnie Brown, but if we could have picked a defensive end that could get 15 sacks a year, I'd say that's a better priority.  No disrespect, we took the best player available to us at that time and we did the same thing this year.  No disrespect to any other player, any other position but it was not done based on need."

On how tempting it was to trade up and take a front-seven player

"Well, if we had a few more draft picks we'd have certainly done it.  We had more of those discussions.  We did talk to Cleveland.  We talked to St. Louis a little bit too, but when we gave up our second-round pick and we only have a three and four and three sevens, to give away a third to move up, which is what it would have probably taken as far as we had to go, that's a price to pay.  If we didn't feel like one of these players could get to us, and at that point in the draft we certainly did, that's in this category, maybe it would have been worth it.  Maybe you say we'll give up a third now we're going to get one of these players.  But we feel like we got one of these players so we're pleased and happy about it."

On what he remembers from recruiting Jason Allen in high school

"I thought he was an outstanding player and a fine young man and somebody that we certainly wanted in our program, but he has a great family.  It was eight or nine hours from Muscle Shoals to LSU and it was two or three hours from Tennessee. I knew that based on how that family was it was going to be a difficult sell to get him to play that far away from home and even though I felt very good about the relationship that we had and what he liked about LSU, I really also felt like Tennessee's got a great program.  It was a lot closer to home and I think at the end of the day that had a lot to do with it – because of his family which is a good thing to me."

On if this was an easy decision once it became time to pick

"Well, I think that it's always tough, but I also think there's a value chart and you've got to make sure that you're getting the value for the pick that you should get if you decide to move back.  That's number one.  And you would also like to make sure that if you do move back, will you have the opportunity to pick the same quality of player at this pick.  Does that make sense?  So if we move back and this guy gets picked and now we take maybe someone that we don't feel quite as good about.  So you know you're always weighing and this is not something that is absolute.  There's always some shade of gray in there as to what the best thing to do is when it comes to those kinds of choices and decisions.  But you try to create a value chart that helps you make those kind of decisions to know are we really getting what we should get here and is it really worth it to move away from this caliber of player."

On what point in the draft he thought Allen would fall to the Dolphins

"Going into the day we were a little nervous because as a basic formula that I use, in my mind at least, not that I get up and divide it out on the board, is if you're picking at 16, you need to have a number somewhere around 90 percent of that to think that one of those players, number of players is 90 percent of your pick, that one of those players will get to you.  So if we're operating on 12 or 13, and you do the math, let's say at 13, then we're right on the verge of are we going to get a player to fall to us or not.  So you really need for somebody to like someone a little differently maybe then you do for that to work out and for that to happen.  So it worked out.  If we'd have backed up very far, if we would have backed up to where we could have backed up, I'm not sure that we would have been able to select this player."

On what Allen earning a degree in a short period of time says about him

"Well, it tells you a lot about the kind of person he is, the kind of character and attitude he has.  I like people who are driven to be successful, who are hard workers, self-starters, goal-oriented in what they want to accomplish and achieve.  We certainly feel like Jason Allen kind of fits into all those categories and his history kind of bears that out when you start looking at what he has been able to accomplish, how hard he's worked academically, athletically as well as personally."


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