In a span of two weeks, South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery went from a first-round lock to the most polarizing figure at the 2012 NFL combine.
The NFL is just around the corner in April and Jeffery is limping to the finish line. He may be panting by the end of the weekend.
With so many Jeffery rumors surfacing recently, you would have thought he was dating Kate Upton. The flavor of the week has been that Alshon has ballooned to almost 250 pounds and will run a 40-yard dash in the 4.8s.
As a result, the nickname "Fat Alshon" has become an Internet celebrity. When you see this photo of Jeffery (far left) from August, you might start inhaling the "Fat Alshon" Kool-Aid, or Krispy Kreme.
Make no mistake. If Jeffery's weight hinders his performance, his draft stock will fall faster than Enron.
These rumors, though, might just be rumors. Scouts Inc. reported a few days ago that contrary to reports, Jeffery was weighing around 220 pounds and planned to run close to a 4.5 40-yard dash. B/R’s Matt Miller has held firm on his high ranking for Jeffery thus far; he stands in the minority that believes the South Carolina wideout is still a top 10 selection.
If the rumors do have substance, there's a possibility Jeffery decided to bulk up for a position switch. The tight end creating a new paradigm in offensive philosophy, redefining the NFL passing game as we know it. Perhaps Alshon Jeffery wants to be on the cutting edge. Perhaps he wants in.
Perhaps Jeffery saw Rob Gronkowski rise up into the clouds to snag passes. Maybe he watched Gronk and Aaron Hernandez bowl over defenders like bowling pins in New England, or when Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham put on a touchdown exhibition in the NFC divisional game.
Regardless of his position, Jeffery will have run fast and with authority up until April.
Jeffery’s declining perception, though, could be traced back before this past month. Rewind back to the beginning of his junior campaign last season. Jeffery was poised to challenge Justin Blackmon for wide receiver supremacy on Planet Wide Receiver.
Alshon showed some of his monster ability here and there. Injuries and attitude issues rendered his season full of hit or miss.
He would have a fantastic game one day at Georgia, but in another, out with a broken hand against Clemson.
By the end of the year, Blackmon was collecting touchdowns like trading cards, while Jeffery finished sixth in SEC receiving.
Alshon Jeffery had become a moon stuck in Justin Blackmon’s orbit.
Excuses began to surface for Jeffery’s subpar play, and many of these claims have substance. He never had familiarity with his quarterback, catching balls from three different South Carolina passers in 12 games. Defense keyed on him with double teams and made inexperienced passers beat them with someone else.
The lack of production doesn’t squarely fall on Jeffery’s shoulders, but the concerns do not stop with last season’s production alone.
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock cites Jeffery’s inability to separate from defenders will be his Achilles' Heel on the next level.
Mayock spoke about Jeffery’s need for speed in Indianapolis. "Big and fast is good," Mayock noted in his conference call. "Big and slow is bad. Bottom line is, he has got to run well."
For NFL scouts, Jeffery can only take two paths from here.
He can be the next Brandon Marshall; a physical freak, a defensive focus every week and a red-zone threat every time the ball goes his way. A perennial Pro Bowler.
Or he can be Mike Williams. Their career paths have been strikingly similar so far: dazzling potential, an Illustrious college career at a school called USC and weight issues going into the NFL combine.
Williams was drafted in the first round but could not separate from opposing NFL defenders. He was out of the league in five years. Even with a recent comeback in Seattle, Williams has yet to justify his high draft selection.
Therefore, the NFL combine becomes a fork in the road for Alshon Jeffery.
The cameras will surround him once he enters the dome. The bright lights will shine when he steps onto the scale. He will be on live television when he goes up for every ball.
The doubters have stated their case. Your move, Alshon.