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Never in a million years did Redskins anticipate Jonathan Allen falling to 17

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Jonathan Allen will bring versatility to a defense (0:39)

Mel Kiper Jr. thinks Jonathan Allen, the defensive end from Alabama, can thrive in either a 3-4 set or a four-man front. (0:39)

ASHBURN, Va. -- The moment was an emotional one, with Jonathan Allen finally learning his fate. He was expected to go much earlier than No. 17, but medical concerns pushed him lower. And when he finally received the call from Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden and owner Dan Snyder, Allen was a bit overwhelmed.

“It was hard for me,” said Allen, who played at Alabama. “I kind of blacked out. I do remember them saying, ‘We’re blessed and lucky to have you.’ I said, ‘No, I’m lucky you took me.’”

Being drafted by a team that practices just a few minutes from where he attended high school was a bit of a storybook situation. It was a dream scenario for the Redskins, too. They did not expect Allen to fall that far, but when he did, Gruden called him a “no-brainer” selection.

But the reason Allen did fall was concern over his left shoulder, which has required multiple surgeries, the last one occurring in January 2016.

“I feel it was definitely in the back of some teams’ minds,” Allen said.

He said he did not need to wear a brace on his left shoulder this past season. Allen also said every team he spoke to about his shoulders cleared him medically.

“It’s probably the best I’ve felt in the last four years, to be honest,” said Allen, who played at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Virginia.

Gruden said the Redskins didn’t have any concerns about his left shoulder. Dr. James Andrews, who works with the Alabama football team, gave the Redskins a “thumbs up,” Gruden said. That alleviated any concerns and led to an easy decision.

“This is just a great pick,” Gruden said. “It’s a no-brainer. You’re taking a great person, a great player, a big body, a guy that can do a little bit of everything on the defensive line.”

The Redskins were in a good spot because other players they rated high, including Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster and Missouri linebacker/end Charles Harris both remained available. However, the goal was to find an impact defensive lineman -- they just didn’t expect to do so in the first round.

“There were a couple guys slipping that we really liked,” Gruden said. “We were in a very good situation. But Jonathan had our highest grade and it was an easy pick for us.”

It led to a long wait for Allen, but one that paid off.

“It’s tough, but when you do get that call it’s a load off your shoulders,” Allen said. “My motivation is to prove why the Redskins were right and smart for drafting me. It’ll sit in the back of my mind, but I have a job to do.”

That job will be to do what he did at Alabama: pressure the passer. He recorded 22.5 sacks the past two years combined. At 286 pounds, he's not the prototypical size for a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, but the Redskins don't play that formation except perhaps 20 percent of the time. So he can play some end, but also rush inside in their sub packages. He can also rush at end in their nickel packages -- and from either side.

"We have guys that can play the run pretty good, but this guy can do everything," Gruden said. "He can line up at nose if you want him to. He can stunt, he can play the run, but he can rush the passer. That versatility is hard to find this day and age in defensive linemen. Big-bodied guys are usually just run-stoppers. They're not able to rush the passer as effectively as he does. And that's a big need for us.

"There really wasn't anything not to like. Never in a million years did we think he would be there at 17. We're happy as heck he was."