Jeff Allen, the second-round draft choice of the Kansas City Chiefs, played offensive tackle in his college career at Illinois, but the early word from the club is that Allen will be developed as a guard at the NFL level. I’m cautiously optimistic about this attempt—the position is an area of need for the Chiefs, and Allen’s skill set gives him a reasonable chance of success.
Kansas City has Jon Asomoah and Ryan Lilija at guard, which isn’t a desperate situation, but it’s still a position that upgrades are going to be required over the next year or two. Lilja is on the wrong side of 30. Asomah is still developing, but is far from a sure thing. Allen gives the Chiefs some insurance if the latter doesn’t work out, and if nothing else is the heir apparent to the former.
The real question then is whether Allen can succeed at a position he hasn’t played at a high level. Tackle and guard require different skills, in that the guards have to be light afoot to pull out on traps and sweeps. At the NFL level the difference between the positions isn’t quite as dramatic, because the left tackle has to have quick feet to protect the edge, but the basic distinction between one position being about agility and footwork, and the other being about classic physical football still exists.
Allen’s scouting report tells us he has agile feet and he’s quick off the snap, with an ability to adjust his body as the play goes on. That will serve him well in his new position, and we’ll see if he follows in the footsteps of center Rodney Hudson, who spent a year on the bench in 2011 before being moved to the top of the depth chart a year later.