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2012 NFL Draft: The Mystery of Alshon Jeffery

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2012 NFL Draft: The Mystery of Alshon Jeffery
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Once considered the top wide receiver in this year's class, Alshon Jeffery has considerably fallen off everyone's radar. He was at one time projected to be a top 10 pick, but now, some scouts project he will drop all the way to the middle of the second round.

Why the drop off for such a talented receiver?

Some folks are making a connection between Jeffery and former Southern Cal. standout and draft bust Mike Williams. However, there are other comparisons that can also be made, such as with Brandon Marshall

Jeffery has mainly fallen off draft boards because of this picture. After this, people began to question his fitness and work ethic. They began to question the same work ethic when he outplayed every cornerback in his sophomore season. Don't get me wrong, Jeffery doesn't have Stephen Hill speed, but who else does. 

He is not a burner who will run by defensive backs and beat them to the end zone. He will instead use his frame to out jump anyone. He is a physical receiver with the best hands in the 2012 draft. He is willing to take the big hits down the middle of the field and gain yards after the catch and is the best red zone target in this draft.

When Sidney Rice entered the draft in 2007, scouts questioned his speed. He has since had a Pro Bowl season and if it weren't for injuries, he would be a consistent pro bowler. There were also questions about Hakeem Nicks' weight in 2009. He has since been an integral part of the Giants' Super Bowl win and one of the top receivers in the league. 

They also question Jeffery's character because of an on-field fight against Alfonzo Dennard in the Capital One Bowl in early January. After one incident, in which Jeffery clearly didn't start the fight, he became a locker room problem. Did people say this about Andre Johnson after his fight with Cortland Finnegan? Is Michael Floyd a good samaritan all of a sudden? What about his off-field incidents?

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Too soon people forget what Jeffery was capable of doing in his time at South Carolina. Even with a shaky quarterback situation that involved an inconsistent Stephen Garcia and a young Connor Shaw, Jeffery was able to maintain his high energy on the field and make any play he could to help his team win. 

People tend to look at stats when comparing Jeffery to any other receiver. If we compare Jeffery to Justin Blackmon, we see that Blackmon clearly outplayed Jeffery statistically, but we also see that Connor Shaw and Stephen Garcia combined for 306 passes all season. These include all the throws Garcia had while falling and desperately trying to throw the ball somewhere. 

On the other hand, we see that Brandon Weeden threw the ball 564 times. This is a big difference when you are trying to compare receivers statistics. We also see that Robert Griffin III threw the ball 402 times, which also gives Kendall Wright an inflated stat sheet.

We can even include Michael Floyd here as Tommy Rees threw the ball 411 times, but Floyd only caught nine touchdown passes. That's only one more than Jeffery's season total and he had 51 less catches than Floyd.

I'm obviously not saying that Blackmon, Wright and Floyd are not good receivers or that they don't deserve the hype they have produced, but Jeffery should still be mentioned with these players. 

Let's not forget that both Oklahoma St. and Baylor run the spread offense while South Carolina is a run-first team with Marcus Lattimore. Even when Lattimore got hurt against Mississippi St., the Gamecocks remained a run-first offense with Brandon Wilds and Kenny Miles.

If we look at what Alshon Jeffery did against top SEC competition, we see what he is capable of. Last year and this year, Jeffery outplayed some of the best cornerbacks in the country.

Let's take a look at his productivity against top cornerbacks in 2010. During his sophomore season, Jeffery benefited from a more consistent Stephen Garcia who could at least make some throws once in a while.

 

Team Matchup Result
Georgia Brandon Boykin 7 receptions; 103 yards
Auburn National Championship Defense 8 receptions; 192 yards; 2 touchdowns
Alabama Dre Kirkpatrick 7 receptions; 127 yards; 2 touchdowns
Vanderbilt Casey Hayward 9 receptions; 158 yards; 1 touchdown
Florida Janoris Jenkins 6 receptions; 53 yards
Clemson Rivalry Game

5 receptions; 141 yards; 1 touchdown

Florida State Bowl Game

9 receptions; 130 yards

Jeffery's Junior season took a big drop due to Garcia's issues with inconsistency and the emergence of young Connor Shaw as the starter which saw him struggle throwing the ball. With Shaw as the starter, Spurrier relied even more on his running game, which also included Shaw, who is one of the fastest players on the team.

These are Jeffery's numbers against top competition his junior season.

 

Team Matchup Result
Georgia Brandon Boykin 5 receptions; 85 yards; 1 touchdown
Vanderbilt Casey Hayward 2 receptions; 34 yards
Auburn SEC Defense 5 receptions; 86 yards; 1 touchdown
Florida SEC Defense 2 receptions; 29 yards; 1 touchdown

Clemson

Rivalry Game 2 receptions; 17 yards

Nebraska

Alfonzo Dennard 4 receptions; 148 yards; 1 touchdown

It is not a mystery that Jeffery's numbers were reduced heavily in his junior year when compared to his sophomore season. However, the numbers he put up in his second year prove that he can be an elite receiver in the NFL. If he is thrown in the right system, he will thrive and become a Pro Bowl receiver. 

His career will be on the line when he steps up to run, but no matter what the time is, he will be one of the best receivers to come out of this class. If he falls into the second round, whoever picks him up will have the biggest steal in the draft.Jeffery's Pro Day is on March 28 and all eyes will be on him and his 40-yard time. For Jeffery's style, the 40 is not a break it or make it deal, but in the eyes of many scouts it is. If Jeffery runs a sub 4.5, he will be talked about as being a first round prospect. If he doesn't, he will be considered a second round prospect.

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