Published February 16, 2012 - 1:48pm
NEW: Discuss this topic in the Google+ community for SEC fans.
Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina’s star wideout who was rated ESPN’s top-ranked SEC player coming into last season, may not even be a first round pick.
NFL Draft experts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay consider Jeffery the biggest gamble in this year’s elite wide receiver class, questioning his speed, agility and ability to separate.
McShay had the audacity to mention Jeffery — a Jared Cook clone at the next level — possibly moving to the tight end position and mentioned him in the same breath with former Southern Cal standout, but disappointing pro, Mike Williams.
How far the mighty have fallen.
In September, Saturday Down South was one of the first to report Jeffery’s teetering draft stock after consecutive two-catch, 30-yard performances against Navy and Vanderbilt. The aforementioned “Alshon’s overrated” piece was linked by several SEC message boards and became local radio fodder in the Columbia, S.C. area.
Now, weeks before April’s draft and a mere days before the combine, the opinion seems vindicated.
Jeffery’s descent began prior to the season opener against East Carolina after Sports Illustrated’s infamous pudgy stomach photo. Rumors arose concerning his work ethic and if Jeffery had “let himself go” during the off-season. Projected by most to be a lottery pick, perhaps the first receiver off the board after a standout sophomore season, Jeffrey landed with a thud as a junior with a major drop in production.
Jeffery had less than 40 yards receiving in seven of the Gamecocks’ 13 games. That happened only once over 21 starts his first two seasons. He wasn’t the impact player South Carolina had come to expect as a 2010 All-American.
Shaky quarterback play was a major factor in Jeffery’s diminished skills, but do we really blame everything on Stephen Garcia? Jeffery finished his career with a bowl performance to remember, hauling in four receptions for 148 yards and a second-quarter, Hail Mary touchdown.
While his statistics showed otherwise, Jeffery will certainly be remembered as one of the fan favorites during the school-record 11-win season. Even as a decoy who lost a step as junior, opponents knew where No. 1 was on the field, at all times.
As for Jeffery’s draft status? I think the earliest the Saint Matthews, S.C. native could go is 26th overall to the Houston Texans. Matt Schaub returns from injury next season in dire need of lanky and reliable possession receiver. The New England Patriots also have a pair of first-round picks to consider a big target for Tom Brady.
Expect Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd and Baylor’s Kendall Wright to hear their names called before Jeffery. These three have a higher upside and scouts will take note of this this next week in Indianapolis.
However, Jeffery does have a chance to improve his stock with a solid showing. The rumors of Jeffery weighing in at 250 pounds with a 40-yard dash speed approaching five seconds are false. Jeffery has worked out in Tampa this off-season in hopes of shedding a few pounds while keeping his speed in the 4.5-4.6 range.
Could Jeffery be an All-Pro in the future? Sure. But the majority of us can’t shake the drop in production and diminished skill set he suffered through last season.