Had former South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery been allowed to enter the draft after his sophomore season, it's likely he would have been a Top 15 overall pick. He was coming off a year in which he caught 88 passes for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns – elite stats for a college wideout.
Yet those numbers fell precipitously his junior year, down to just 49 catches for 762 yards and eight touchdowns. Yet anyone familiar with South Carolina football knows that poor quarterback play was the main reason for the dropoff.
Jeffery showed frustration on the field, raising questions about his motivation. His weight, which reportedly ballooned to almost 240 pounds as a junior, also raised eyebrows.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Jeffery did not do himself any favors. The 6-3 wideout showed up considerably lighter, down to 216 pounds, yet for no apparent reason he chose not to participate in any of the drills. His mindset was again questioned, further hurting his draft stock.
At his pro day, Jeffery ran a reported 4.50 40-yard dash, yet the actual time varied greatly from scout to scout. As such, he fell into the second round of this year's draft. The Chicago Bears, in need of help at wide receiver, saw Jeffery plummeting and chose to trade up five spots in the second round to grab him.
Let's break down the film to find out if Jeffery is more likely to be a draft-day steal or bust.
Film Session No. 1 – South Carolina vs. Nebraska, 2011 Capital One Bowl
Throughout this contest, Jeffery squared off against Alfonzo Dennard, a seventh-round selection of the New England Patriots this year. *Note: Dennard was originally considered a second- or third-round pick before being arrested for allegedly punching a police officer less than a week before the draft, thus his freefall to the seventh round.
Let's go highlight by highlight:
#1 – Jeffery creates separation but the ball is overthrown.
#2 – QB scrambles and has time to throw. Replay shows Jeffery not coming back to the ball. Play results in a sack.
#3 – Completion over the middle versus off coverage.
#4 – Deep pass complete. Jeffery gets two yards of separation. Nice catch over the shoulder. Brings the ball inside the five-yard line. Caught from behind. Switches ball to other hand before being tackled.
#5 – Five-yard hitch complete against off coverage.
#6 – Hail Mary completed to Jeffery for a touchdown. He does an outstanding job high-pointing the ball, makes a great catch and has the wherewithal to turn and get into the end zone.
#7 – Kicked out of game for fighting with Dennard. His last collegiate play shows obvious immaturity issues.
Film Session No. 2 – South Carolina vs. Alabama, 2010
#1 – Flag route to front corner of the end zone. Poor route. Safety Mark Barron jumps the play but mis-times his jump. Jeffery makes an outstanding grab for the touchdown.
#2 – Touchdown on a fade route. Cornerback, not Kirkpatrick, doesn't press and allows a free release. Jeffery makes the easy TD grab.
#3 – Bubble screen for a two-yard gain.
#4 – 10-yard in route complete. First down.
#5 – Slant versus press coverage. Jeffery uses hands well to fight off Kirkpatrick and cut inside for the completion. Uses body well to shield defender.
#6 – Jeffery is open but lets the ball bounce off his hands right to a defender. Play goes for an interception. Just an awful effort.
#7 – Five-yard in route. Finds hole in the zone. Takes three guys to bring him down. Despite the completion, the route is just horrendous. Rounds out his cut; doesn't sink hips.
#8 – Amazing one-handed grab. Fights off Kirkpatrick and makes a fantastic catch. Then breaks a tackle and takes the ball to the seven-yard line.
Film session No. 3 – Incomplete passes
This video cuts up a number of passes thrown to Jeffery that fell incomplete. This tape shows the egregiously awful quarterback play. Almost all of these incompletions are the result of bad passes. It's not worth breaking down every play but a couple of things stood out.
First, on the downfield passes, Jeffery has a defender right in his hip on almost every play. He cannot get behind the secondary.
Second, view the play that happens at 5:50. The replay shows a ridiculously poor route. That type of nonsense will not fly at the pro level.
Of the remaining film, one play truly stands out. During the South Carolina vs. Alabama tape, view the play that happens at 1:15.
Jeffery finds a hole in the zone and sits in it. The pass is overthrown but he goes up and makes a spectacular one-handed grab. It demonstrates his top-tier hands. Yet, it was completely unnecessary. There was not a defender around him and he had both hands free. It's hard to tell if he's showboating or not, but had he dropped that pass, it would have been grounds for heavy criticism.
-Deceptive speed due to long strides.
-Arguably the best hands of any wide receiver in the 2011 draft class.
-Shows great ability to find holes in zone coverage.
-Uses hands well to fight off defenders when ball is in the air.
-Always catches the ball at its highest point.
-His size gives him an advantage over nearly every corner he faces.
-Has the ability to make the highlight grabs.
-Has the potential to change the game on very snap.
-Hard to bring down after the catch. Breaks a lot of tackles.
-Extremely poor route running.
-Struggles at times versus press coverage.
Physical NFL corners will give him trouble.
-Can't always create separation downfield.
-Lumbers off the line at times.
As you can see, he has more positives than negatives. Yet there is also one other factor we need to consider.
Jeffery said after he was drafted that his weight is currently at 213. He said that will be his playing weight going forward.
Yet all of this film shows a player at around 235 pounds. It doesn't matter who you are, 20 pounds off a receiver changes the player. It made him faster for his 40 time but what will it do to his ability to outmuscle defenders when the ball in the air? Will he still be able to break tackles?
Since we've never seen him play at that weight, no one can say for certain how it will affect him. He'll still obviously have height and great hands, which will serve him well at the next level, but he must work on his consistency. He had some awful dropped passes at South Carolina, the likes of which will get him quickly benched in Chicago.
Also, if he doesn't improve his route running, he'll never be a top-tier contributor in the pros. Corners and safeties will easily be able to jump those rounded routes, which may create turnovers and reduce Jay Cutler's confidence in him.
Criticism aside, Jeffery has the potential to be a Pro Bowl receiver. He has all the physical traits of an elite wideout in the NFL. If his reduced weight translates to more speed, without sacrificing his physicalness, he'll be an All Pro.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.