Keenan Allen didn’t know quite what to say or how to feel.
After finally being taken by the San Diego Chargers with the 76th overall pick in the NFL draft — deep into the third round — the former Cal wide receiver’s emotions leaned more to relief than joy.
“I’m not sure what happened,” he said. “I was in the dark like you guys.”
Six months ago, Allen was being projected as the top receiver prospect in the draft, a sure first-rounder. He wound up as just the eighth wideout taken.
“Every time another receiver was taken, it was like another dagger,” said former Cal coach Jeff Tedford. “I could imagine how he felt because I was feeling it for him and with him. Knowing Keenan, this will just add fuel to the fire.”
“Being a third-round pick is definitely motivation for me,” Allen said. “I want to get out there and show everybody I can play.”
Allen, Cal’s career receptions leader, missed the final three games last season after spraining the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. After aggravating it, he wasn’t able to work out at the NFL combine.
Allen also was the subject of an anonymously sourced ESPN report a week ago that said his combine drug test was red-flagged. Allen said Friday his knee is sound just not strong yet, and that he never failed a drug test.
ESPN backed off the story and Allen said he doesn’t think it had an effect on his draft position.
Whatever the reason, his stock plummeted to the point that he just the eighth wideout taken.
ESPN’s draft commentators were astounded. Analyst Bill Polian, a former NFL team executive, compared Allen’s skills to those of Reggie Wayne, who has caught nearly 1,000 career passes for the Indianapolis Colts.
Tedford said Allen’s recent 40 times were misleading and predicted he will become a Pro Bowl player. “The Chargers just got a great player,” he said.
Allen said he expects to make an immediate contribution with the Chargers.
“I see myself doing well, definitely being a starter, trying to be an impact player,” he said of his rookie goals. “I want to make it a goal to be a Pro Bowl player.”
Tedford said Allen may surprise teams that overlooked him.
“So many people go off numbers and his 40 times,” Tedford said. “I think was mainly because his of rehab with his knee and he had a little setback.
“If you’re just looking at that, you can see why people shy away from those numbers. We know that’s not him. He plays more like a 4.5 guy.
“He’s such a great competitor. I think he’s going to be a great NFL player,” Tedford said. “I have unbeleivable confidence and belief that he’s going to do great things.”