Stuart McNair

Stunned Redskins Coach Jay Gruden On Selecting Jonathan Allen At 17: 'No-brainer'

The Redskins head coach expressed surprise over landing the Alabama defensive standout. Jonathan Allen explained why he'll help his hometown team.

The Washington Redskins are proof wishes can come true. 

There was no way Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen, a consensus top 5 prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft class, would fall all the way to 17. That's where the Redskins picked in round one, the first of their 10 selections entering the draft. Head coach Jay Gruden didn't even feel like bothering Allen's college coach Nick Saban, for his thoughts.

Now that the kid from Leesburg is on the team, there's reason for a lengthy chat. There are reasons for smiles considering Washington's needs along the defensive line and Allen's talent on board to help.

"Not in a million years," Gruden said when asked if he imagined the 2016 Chuck Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski Award winner as the nation's top defender would be on the board for their first selection.

“There really wasn’t anything not to like, really," Gruden said. We like his size, we like his strength, we like his ability to rush the passer, play the run. He’s a very versatile guy – he can play all the positions on defensive line. Really, never in a million years did we think he would be there at 17, but we’re happy-as-heck he was. There was not a lot of debate in there – we put the card in and took a heck-of-a football player and a great person.”

Concerns over an arthritic condition in both shoulders became public last month. Tthe rumor mill slowly started suggesting Allen could slide outside the top five and perhaps a bit further. By draft day a tiny cluster of mock draft types thought he might available at 17. Then again, NFL Network Mike Mayock ranked Allen as the No. 2 prospect in the entire draft class. Yet Allen got passed the 49ers at three and the Jaguars at four. With the ninth pick, the Bengals chose speed receiver Jon Ross.

The second and third quarterback in round one soon followed. Eventually, the Redskins were on the clock. The training staff signed off on the shoulder condition, which isn't expected to impact Allen for several years if not well after his career ends. The football people could make the move. They did.

"No-brainer," Gruden said of selecting Allen, who will immediately bolster a unit in need of playmakers. The Redskins ranked 28th in defense last season and received limited pass rush from their defensive line. That was with Chris Baker, who signed with Tampa Bay in free agency.

Washington signed free agents Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain in free agency. More was needed. More came Thursday night. Allen, a local product from Stone Ridge High School, had 22 sacks over his last two seasons playing for Alabama. 

“It’s a blessing," Allen said about playing in his home area. "It’s only something you read about in books – it doesn’t even seem real. For me to be going back home to Washington, it’s honestly just the biggest blessing I could have ever received.”

ESPN analyst Louis Riddick singled out the Allen selection as his favorite pick of round one. 

"I know the Redskins were sitting there in their War Room going, 'Are you kidding me? The guy slid all the way down to here? This guy fell to us at a position where we've been decimated?"...I know I sound pretty happy and I probably don't sound as half as happy as they are," Riddick said.

Gruden made it clear he expects the first rounder to contribute right away. Playing under Saban with the Crimson Tide will no doubt help the adjustment process.

"Obviously there's going to be a learning process, but playing at Alabama I feel like I'm mentally prepared for what's to come," Allen said at the NFL Draft in Philadelphia.

The Redskins wouldn't let their minds drift much into thinking about grabbing Allen at 17. Ha, no way. Actually, yes way. On Thursday night all were reminded that wishes can come true.

Breaking Burgundy photojournalist Joe Glorioso contributed from Philadelphia.

Ben Standig is the Publisher of Breaking Burgundy and the Huddle Report's 2012 NFL Mock Draft champion. You can find him on Twitter @benstandigFacebook and on Google+.

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