The 2012 NFL draft is drawing closer by the day, and the Cleveland Browns are finalizing their draft plans to come away with the best team possible for the upcoming season. Wide receiver is one of the biggest positions on the Browns' wish list during the draft process, and names like Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright have been all over Cleveland's mock drafts over the last few weeks.
However, there is one receiver that has not been mentioned in Cleveland's conversation and has gone relatively unnoticed over the course of the scouting process. Alshon Jeffery was once a top-15 prospect before a weaker than expected showing at the NFL combine set him behind some of the faster receivers on many big boards.
Jeffery is a physical receiver and has been compared to NFL star Anquan Boldin for his build, strength and ability to make the tough catches in traffic. According to ESPN.com, Jeffery currently weighs close to 229 pounds and stands 6'4". That would make Jeffery the biggest receiver on the Browns active roster and also heaviest receiver the Browns have drafted since they returned in 1999.
That type of size could make Jeffery an elite red zone threat and give him the potential be a devastating blocker down field if he can improve his footwork.
Many draft experts call for the Browns to select a speedy wide receiver that compares to a player like Torrey Smith of the Baltimore Ravens. Stephen Hill is that player, and scouts like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay feel that he could be a perfect fit in Cleveland because of his ability to separate from defenses.
Now, it is easy to forget that Greg Little was one of the best rookie receivers in the league in 2011, and Josh Cribbs was one of the most dependable receivers in the AFC North despite playing multiple roles on the offense and special teams.
The Browns need to add a physical player that can still get open and compete with some of the toughest defenses in the NFL. Cleveland will still play six divisional games against three of the strongest defenses on a yearly basis and needs a player than can hold up in some of the toughest conditions in football.
Jeffery put up good numbers while at South Carolina, but really shined in some of the biggest games and on the biggest stage. At one point during the 2011 season, Jeffery had only 87 receiving yards over a four-game span. However, he showed up in a huge way during the 2011 Florida Citrus Bowl as he caught four passes for 148 yards and a touchdown.
Jeffery may have even been a top-10 pick if he would have declared for the draft in 2011, but he returned to school for one last run with South Carolina. In 2010, Jeffery caught 88 passes for over 1,500 yards, but took a statistical drop with only 49 catches this past season. That lack of production could be attributed to poor quarterback play, but it still changes the way Jeffery is viewed by NFL scouts.
The Browns own three picks in the top-37 selections of the 2012 NFL draft. Jeffery's stock has slipped a little over the past few weeks, and many experts feel that he could be an option for the Browns with the 37th overall pick. Cleveland could also hold the ammunition to move up a few spots because of their 11 selections over the second and third day's of the draft.
The final thing that makes this pick so intriguing is the thought that the Browns would not have to spend a first-round selection on a wide receiver and still get a player that can impact the franchise right away. The fourth- and 22nd-overall pick can then be used on a running back, offensive lineman, defensive end or any other position the team would like to improve.