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Cowboys 2015 Draft Targets: USC RB Javorius "Buck" Allen

Because there has been such a high correlation in recent years between the top collegians invited to Valley Ranch for pre-draft visits and who the Cowboys end up drafting, it's important to know as much as possible about these players. As a service to you, BTB offers a series of detailed scouting reports on these players, compiled from the work of top draft analysts. Today, we look at USC running back Javorius "Buck" Allen.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Javorius "Buck" Allen redshirted at USC in 2011, then saw minimal action as a redshirt freshman the following season. In 2013, he started the season as part of a running back-by-committee system, but emerged as the lead dog down the stretch, eclipsing the 100-yard mark four times, and finishing with a team-high 785 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, earning All-Pac 12 Honorable Mention honors.

In 2014, Allen remained the lead dog, starting all 13 games, and finishing with 276 attempts, 1,489 yards and eleven scores - and adding 41 receptions for 458 yards. Allen earned First Team All-Pac 12 honors for his efforts. In sum, he started the Trojans' final seventeen games, averaging a healthy 110 yards per start.

Allen is a slashing runner whose ability to zip through gaps and into the open field, where he has the elusiveness to create yards and to manufacture chunk plays. He boasts strong plant-and-go footwork and sufficient vision to be a good cutback runner, and can get dirty yards between the tackles, showing the forward lean and leg drive to pick up the tough yards inside. Moreover, he's shown himself to be a reliable blocker and receiver out of backfield

To sum up: Allen doesn't do anything spectacularly well, but has shown a sufficiently well-rounded skill-set, in both the running and passing games, to stick with an NFL club and to develop into a starter at some point in future.

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Want to scout like a boss? Let's start by looking at his measurables:

Height Weight Arms Hands 40yd 10yd Bench Vert Broad 3Cone 20ss pSPARQ (%)
6' 0" 221 31¾" 9⅜" 4.53 1.58 11 35½" 121" 6.96 4.28 118.8 (42.0)

His pSPARQ number suggests he a below-average athlete for the position, which is confirmed by this spider graph, courtesy of the folks at Mockdraftable.com:

Over at Draft Breakdown, they have two of Buck's games on tape. You can see get stymied against Boston College (15-31) and in the Holiday Bowl versus Nebraska (a healthier 26-152). Want only the "best of"? Check out this highlight reel or these "ultimate USC" highlights.

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Let's see what our esteemed panel of scouts has to say about the Buckster:

Gary Horton (ESPN.com) 9th-ranked RB; 102nd overall:

Competitiveness: Run aggression is a bit inconsistent but runs hard the majority of the time. Ball security must improve. Has a 1.25 career fumble percentage. Runs with ball away from frame far too often. Have seen him false start (ND 2014) on tape. Could do better job selling play-fakes.

Vision/Patience: Good vision and feel for creases as a runner. Senses cutback lane. Only knock here is his inconsistency reading/cutting off of lead blockers.

Agility/Acceleration: Good burst to and through the hole. Plays fast but under control. Good (not elite) quickness and lateral agility. Very effective stop-start move. Accelerates off of plant foot when cutting. Not very elusive in open field, but is patient and shows good vision in space. Allows blocks to set up and shows a second-gear when a crease opens.

Power/Balance: Is not an overpowering runner and won't push many piles, but does display adequate power and above-average balance as a runner. Runs behind his pads and consistently falls forward at end of runs. Shows enough strength and balance to bounce off arm tacklers.

Passing Game: Capable of developing into three-down back in NFL. Very productive in USC's passing game. Naturally instinctive as a route runner. Comfortable in space. Does a good job of plucking on run and quickly transitions upfield. But had some focus drops. Most catches come from screens and dump-offs. Rarely lines up in slot or out wide. Results are adequate in pass protection, but there's room to improve. Most importantly, shows willingness. Gets in position and gets in the way. Also effective cut blocker. But would like to see more aggression at point of attack. Needs to do a better job of sustaining and finishing.

Intangibles: Grew up about 20 miles northeast of Tallahassee, FL in small town of Miccosukee. Has two brothers and was raised by maternal grandmother, Rosa Brown. Older brother, Devon, was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to prison when Buck was 12 years old. Buck has overcome a lot of adversity. He's mature and respectful. Coaches speak highly of his work ethic and willingness to put team first. Was a sociology major at USC. Missed Utah game in 2012 because of a death in his family.

Rob Rang (CBSSports.com) 12th-ranked RB; 119th overall:

Strengths: Well-built back with good overall musculature, including thick thighs. Exhibits controlled aggression as a runner, showing the burst to zip through holes and the patience to allow them to develop. Possesses deceptive power and acceleration due to his slashing running style. Runs with good forward lean, initiating contact and showing good leg drive to generate yards after contact. Possesses soft hands out of the backfield and shows the ability to adjust to make tough grabs. Alert, physical pass blocker. Comes with experience in Sarkisian's pro-style offense and theoretically should be able to contribute early in his NFL career.

Weaknesses: Possesses a high-cut frame with long legs, giving defenders a sizeable target. Lacks ideal balance, struggling to regain his momentum if tripped up and occasionally swinging his arms (including the ball) to stay on his feet. Does not possess ideal breakaway speed.

Matt Waldman (RSP) 15th-ranked RB:

Allen displays some patience with footwork and stride variation to set up creases and burst through them. There's enough anticipation to his game that he'll adjust to penetration and create space to hit a crease at the line of scrimmage. He generally hits creases hard and he's a strong runner capable of pushing through first and second-level wraps for yards after contact. He keeps his pads low through contact and drives for extra yards.

In a game where Boston College's defense dominated the USC offensive line, Allen displayed good decision-making at the point of attack, patience setting up the available blocks, and when possible, made the first man miss and extended his body through contact for extra yards.

Where I'm not sure Allen's game translates as a future NFL starter is his change of direction. I've seen him make several sharp, lateral cuts, but he often has to slow down to make the move...

Allen has room to grow into an excellent pass protector. His punch could be a little more technically sound and his position is sometimes questionable. However, there is a purpose to his technique and he's effective against college defenders.

He also uses that blocking skill to set up releases on screen passes. Allen has good hands. He catches targets from a variety of angles and makes receptions with his back to the line of scrimmage.

He has the conceptual skills and size to contribute to an NFL backfield as a reserve. If he can play special teams, he should latch on, develop a little more explosion and strength and grow into a better option.

Lance Zierlein (NFL.com) 13th-ranked RB; 141st overall:

Strengths: Loose hips for tight turns and razor-sharp cuts. Has quick-stop, jump-cut ability to make defenders miss in the backfield. Can slalom back and forth, navigating around traffic through the line of scrimmage and into the second level. Able to shake linebackers and downhill safeties in space. Short-area acceleration to give leg-tacklers a vanishing target. Has lateral quickness to bounce runs outside and create something out of nothing. Factors into passing game, averaging 11.3 yards per catch over last two seasons. Plays with adequate burst through the crease. Able to handle a heavy workload if asked.

Weaknesses: Running style doesn't match his size. Upright runner. Plays with high pad level and doesn't finish runs with attitude and urgency. Slows feet into contact and rarely explodes through initial tackler with force. Lacks instincts and feel for developing running lanes. Chooses the trafficked path more than expected. At times, will show some indecisiveness and hesitation into the fray. Will break prematurely from path the play should follow rather than allowing it to develop. Focus drops plagued him out of backfield in 2014.

NFL Comparison: Bernard Pierce

Dane Brugler (NFL Draft Guide) 10th-ranked RB:

Strengths: Powerful build and not easy to bring down, dedicating himself in the weight room to fill out his frame...stays square to the line of scrimmage with quick, lateral cuts, swivel hips and low pad level...innate vision to find cutback lanes with natural run instincts...hits his top speed quickly with agile, light footwork to make quick adjustments...strong finisher and not easy to bring down with his stout frame, forcing defenders to slip off him...reliable hands and natural body adjustments as a pass-catcher - above average in this area with 63 career catches at USC...willing pass protector with the base and skill-set to continue to develop as a blocker...has overcome tough circumstances at home and school - his older brother (Devon) was a father figure and sent to prison for attempted murder in 2003...well-respected in the locker room and has an excellent relationship with his coaches...durable and has shown no signs of wearing down...consistent production when given the opportunity to start at USC.

Weaknesses: Taller than ideal for the position, causing him to occasionally run upright...needs to run with consistent pad level to stay balanced through contact...too much hesitation and needs to quicken his reads, running too patient and making unneeded cuts at times...only average speed and won't out-run defenders or be a consistent home run threat...lacks dynamic start/stop burst in tight spaces to be elusive and make defenders miss...needs to fix his ball security concerns, holding the ball tighter to eliminate turnovers (six career fumbles, 80.0 fumble rate)...still developing as a backfield blocker and needs seasoning in this area...minimal experience on special teams and didn't return kicks in college.

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Our scouts slot Allen between the 102nd and 141st picks, which translates to the top of the fourth to the top of the fifth round. Other scouts who I haven't included here, such as Dan Shonka and Nolan Nawrocki, place him in the top 75 to 80 picks. So, if we split the difference, it appears that Allen is an early-to-mid fourth rounder, and that's where I'll put him on my" little board." In case you haven't memorized the pick numbers yet, Dallas currently sits at 127 in the fourth frame.

How would Ol' Rabble feel if Allen were to be the pick at 127. Well, he'd probably feel pretty good about the draft (that wold mean the team had found value at the other positions they seem to be targeting, such as CB, DE and LB) but less than enthralled by their stable of runners. Its all a complicated equation; is it better to stock up on the best defensive payers available and trust in a dominant O-line? Or to get the best runner possible and win like they did in 2014, with a bruising running game.

I'm not sure. But if the Cowboys pick Allen, we'll have a pretty good idea which of these two scenarios we'll watch unfold. And until I see the pudding, I can't say I hate it.

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Next up: Ohio State WR Devin Smith