Maybe Dwayne Allen is arriving at just the right time.
The tight end position in the NFL has undergone a metamorphosis, transitioning from a glorified offensive lineman into an integral part of today’s pass-heavy offensive schemes.
The new tight end model is easy to find. Check out Jimmy Graham in New Orleans. Rob Gronkowski in New England. Greg Olsen in Charlotte.
At a time when versatile tight ends are in high demand, Allen, the former Clemson tight end, and Stanford’s Coby Fleener are considered the top two draft prospects at the position by a wide margin. Fleener is projected to be a first-round pick, while Allen (6-foot-5 252 pounds) is expected to be chosen early in the second round.
Here’s how times have changed:
During conversations and workouts with pro coaches and scouts, Allen said he’s been asked about his blocking ability. Teams have seen him catch passes – his 93 receptions are the second-most by a tight end in Clemson history – but some asked Allen to point them to game tape that shows what he can do when the ball’s not coming his way.
When Clemson went to coordinator Chad Morris’ high-energy, fast-paced offense last season, Allen said he was asked to do more than get in the way of 300-pound linemen. Often, he was asked to block downfield or outside. Allen can do that.
“Anybody looking for a tight end has certain characteristics they’re looking for,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s rare to find a player who possesses everything. He’s the total package.
“He’s physically capable of doing things in the running game at the point of attack and he’s also athletic enough and fast enough and has the ball skills of a wideout.”
Allen, who won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end and was a first-team AP All-American after catching 50 passes last season, had seven receptions of 20 yards or longer last season, playing a role similar to what is becoming the norm in the NFL. He has studied Graham, Gronkowski and others, looking to improve.
“They’ve kind of been the future of tight ends,” Allen said. “I’ve watched the way they use their bodies and their athleticism to create mismatches, hoping I can use that to benefit me. I try to pick up on little things they do like how to get off the line.”
Clemson’s transition to a more aggressive offensive style last season benefitted Allen. Rather than line up in the traditional tight end spot on every play, Allen found himself in different spots. He was split wide. He was put into motion. He lined up in the backfield.
“It allowed me to showcase my versatility,” Allen said.
He has plenty of that.
“He’s so big and athletic, it’s hard for a safety to cover him,” Swinney said. “They’re not going to put a nickel guy on him and he’s too athletic for a linebacker to cover. He’s a rare combination.
“Look at a lot of his catches and it’s not like he’s wide open when he makes them. He’s catching the ball in traffic and the defender can’t get to the ball.”
Allen said he met recently in Clemson with Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and tight ends coach Pete Hoener. The coaches, Allen said, told him the Panthers are looking for another playmaker to help quarterback Cam Newton.
Whether it’s Allen or someone else remains to be seen.
“I just want to know where I’m going to spend the next three or four years,” Allen said. “The next few days are going to be very long, but I can only control what I can control. I’ve done what I can at the combine and pro day. Now, it’s up to them.”