The Cardinals drafted Zach Allen with the first pick of the third round on Friday, and he will never be confused with Benedict Arnold.
The defensive end amassed 100 tackles in his junior season at Boston College, many of which were due to flat-out hustle. While it remains to be seen how well his other traits translate to the NFL, Allen promises his motor won’t ever be a problem.
“Without effort, you’re loafing, and a loaf means you’re a traitor to your team,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, the only thing you can control is your effort and your mindset.”
Allen, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds, rounded out his career with 61 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks as a senior. He joins a defensive line group that is headlined by the quartet of Corey Peters, Darius Philon, Rodney Gunter and Robert Nkemdiche. There figures to be a rotation of players along the line, and Allen hopes to be in that mix.
General Manager Steve Keim has talked often about identifying prospects with a strong love for the game, and Allen seems to fit that bill.
“This guy plays like his hair is on fire,” Keim said. “He’s relentless.”
Allen is a versatile piece on the line and is happy to do anything asked of him as a rookie — on the field or off.
“Gain weight, lose weight, whatever it is,” Allen said. “Special teams, sell popcorn, I’m willing to do it.”
The Cardinals struggled stopping the run a year ago, and Keim believes Allen’s style is well-suited to shore up that weakness.
“If you get 11 guys running to the football, you’ve got a chance,” Keim said. “I think the one thing that he brings to the table is the ability to get people around him excited. He’s that kind of guy that people feed off of.”
Allen said he was hoping to be drafted by the Cardinals. He trained in Phoenix heading into the NFL Scouting combine and developed a good relationship with Cardinals defensive line coach Chris Achuff during the pre-draft process.
Allen fell in love with the city during his time here.
“From growing up in New England, these cold winters, I don’t know how many more of them I could have handled any more,” Allen said. “(Arizona) has its own beauty with the mountains and everything. The people. It’s a growing city, a vibrant city. I’m really glad I get to be there again.”