Tracking South Carolina Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIApril 26, 2012

Tracking South Carolina Football Players in the 2012 NFL Draft

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    Post-draft update:

    If you're wondering where South Carolina ranked as far as overall number of draft picks, here's the article.

    Apr 28 Intro:

    Alshon Jeffery finally left the board last night, and should be playing in the NFL with one of the biggest chips in history on his shoulder. South Carolina fans will be paying close attention to him in the future...to say "I told you so."

    In the meantime, bookmark this page, Gamecock fans. All the players leaving the garnet and black uniform behind for the NFL will be brought to you right here.

    Apr 27 Intro:

    After producing two first-round draft picks, South Carolina is looking almost as good as we expected. The biggest question entering tonight's rounds is this: When is Alshon Jeffery going to get selected?

    As you can see from the comments below, there are a couple of reasons to excuse him from being picked in the top 10 or 15. Leaving him completely out of the first round, though, is just baffling.

    Bookmark this page for updates on every Gamecock that turns pro in all seven rounds of the draft.

    Original Intro:

    Steve Spurrier is building the kind of team in South Carolina that its fans have dreamed about for decades. If it weren't for the fact that Georgia is dodging the three top teams from the SEC West in 2012, South Carolina would be a virtual lock to represent the SEC East in the conference title game in Atlanta.

    In the process of building that team, Spurrier has brought ridiculous talent to the Gamecocks.

    In this year's draft, South Carolina provides the NFL with the nation's best college receiver. (Yes, Justin Blackmon was all over the TV last year, but he was not playing against the SEC defenses that Alshon Jeffery was embarrassing week after week.)

    South Carolina has a five-man presence in the NFL draft this year, and that's a great feeling for a team that's on the rise in the nation's premier conference.

    Bookmark this article to keep tabs on all the South Carolina players who get drafted this weekend.

    The list of potential draftees from South Carolina:

    1) Alshon Jeffery, WR

    2) Melvin Ingram, OLB

    3) Stephon Gilmore, CB

    4) Antonio Allen, SS

    5) Travian Robertson, DT

    South Carolina has some serious talent entering the 2012 draft. It will definitely boost recruiting for Spurrier if the top three on this list go in the top 15 of the draft.

Stephon Gilmore, CB: Drafted by Buffalo Bills, First Round (10th Overall)

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    South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore was one of the most ascendant talents in the postseason leading up to the draft. A solidly-built 6'0" 190-pound corner who can run a 4.4 40 and display elite quickness and explosiveness is a rare player indeed.

    Gilmore started for the Gamecocks as a true freshman and improved greatly in each of his three years playing in the toughest conference in college football.

    Gilmore's scouting reports focus on his elite physical gifts and need for more polish.

    Yahoo! Sports' Mike Tanier:

    Pros: Gilmore has exceptional speed and can run with top wide receivers. He covers a lot of ground in zone coverage. As a three-year starter, he has learned to diagnose plays when he is in a short zone, and will sit in a spot on the field and wait for an easy interception or pass breakup. Gilmore gambles and guesses sometimes when jumping routes. That can be good or bad, of course, but Gilmore picks his spots fairly well when he gambles.

    Cons: Gilmore's man coverage technique is very raw. His footwork is not great, and he will lose his receiver at the top of the route. When playing off the receiver, he gets caught flat-footed when the receiver breaks. Gilmore is a long, lean defender who will always have trouble with compact, nifty receivers. In deep zones, he sometimes relies on his pure speed to bail him out when he did not take proper position against a route combination.

    National Football Post's Wes Bunting:

    Exhibits good straight-line speed for his size (played like a mid 4.4 guy) and made it tough on defenders to separate vertically.  Doesn't feel the routes of receivers overly well, at times he gives up far too much cushion underneath and struggles to get back out of his breaks.  Needs to do a better job being more patient in his drop, sitting lower and staying more compact with his footwork. However, he is the kind of athlete that can improve in this area. He showcases natural bend, quickness and fluidity to his game. When he does set his feet, showcases a good closing burst on the football. Does a nice job reading the action in front of him and getting early jumps on the ball. However, doesn't always trust what he sees when asked to close and can get a bit tentative at times. 

    Gilmore should at least fit in nickel and dime packages right away for Buffalo, and his physical advantages can hide his inexperience if a team chooses to throw him in the fire in as a zone corner. He will be drafted as a long-term starter and should run with the first team by the end of his rookie season.

    If he can improve his technique and hone his instincts, Gilmore will be one of the best cornerbacks in all of football.

Melvin Ingram, DE: Drafted by San Diego Chargers, First Round (18th Overall)

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    A buzzword in today's NFL is "scheme versatility"—meaning the ability to play in multiple schemes (i.e. the 3-4 and 4-3 defense). No player better represents this than Melvin Ingram.

    Ingram started his college career at inside linebacker. He then moved to defensive tackle. Yes, from linebacker to defensive tackle. It sounds crazy, but it worked. Ingram did well at tackle, but his quickness was better suited on the edge, so he moved to defensive end. 

    That's not all—he also returned kicks as a senior and ran the ball twice for 87 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown run versus Georgia. Ingram is a freakishly good athlete who has the ability to succeed anywhere you put him on the field.

    The versatility that Ingram brings adds value to his stock, as he's able to move around and fill holes as players get injured, or as production drops off at virtually any position along the defensive front seven. 

    The only major concern is his height. He measured in at just under 6'2", but in a stand-up position at outside linebacker, or playing off the edge at defensive end, that's not an insurmountable obstacle.

    So the next time someone says "scheme versatility"—think Melvin Ingram.

    Pick Analysis:

    Ingram might not've been the Chargers biggest need, but they get great value having the former South Carolina Gamecock fall into their lap here. His downside is very low, even though he's not the biggest guy in the world, he'll be a valuable contributor as a rookie.

Alshon Jeffery, WR: Drafted by Chicago Bears, Second Round (45th Overall)

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    Potentially the steal of the 2012 NFL draft, Alshon Jeffery has enough talent that he's the No. 1 wide receiver on our big board.

    Jeffery has the ability to stretch an offense vertically, using big size (6'3", 215 pounds) and sure hands to take over games.

    There are slight concerns about Jeffery's weight, as there is a photo of him looking heavy before the 2011 season began, but he was a smooth 215 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, and again at the South Carolina pro day. 

    Jeffery doesn't possess great game-breaking speed, but he's a long strider who can get open using his length, build and vertical to make plays. When the 2012 NFL draft is graded in three years, we believe Jeffery will be the No. 1 wide receiver from this class.

    Pick Analysis

    In a last-minute trade, the Chicago Bears swapped picks with the St. Louis Rams to grab arguably the most talented wide receiver in the draft. Of course, there's a reason all that talent slid into the second round—he doesn't possess blinding speed by NFL standards and there are questions swirling about his offseason work ethic after he showed up overweight. The pick is a bit of a gamble, but look out for Chicago if the gamble works.

Rokevious Watkins, G: Drafted by St. Louis Rams, Fifth Round (150th Overall)

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    Rokevious Watkins was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. More information is forthcoming.

Antonio Allen, S: Drafted by New York Jets, Seventh Round (242nd Overall)

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    A second-team All-SEC selection, South Carolina’s Antonio Allen is one of the more versatile players in this year’s draft and anchored the SEC’s second best defensive unit from the strong safety position.

    Allen is an intense defender and a natural leader on the gridiron. He led the Gamecocks defense with 88 tackles—9.5 of which went for a loss—three interceptions, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.

    The South Carolina product boasts a good skill set as a traditional strong safety coming into the NFL

    NFLDraftScout.com’s Dane Brugler weighs in on this young prospect :

    [Allen] possesses a tall, long frame with room to get stronger—adequate arm length (32 inches). Talented all-around athlete with good playing speed and range. Reads and deciphers quickly, reacting in a flash with a nose for the ball. Jumps routes and drives fast on plays in front of him. Has good body control and balance to redirect and break down in space -- consistent open-field tackler. Extends his arms into contact and works hard to shed and burst to the ball. Heads-up, opportunistic defender with good awareness and ball skills to make plays on the ball.

    The gurus over at NEPatriotsDraft.com tell us it is not all positive for Allen:

    Not a real fluid athlete especially in the hips – Struggles to change direction quick enough – Has a tough time turning and running with receivers – Tends to play the body too often, instead of finding and tracking the ball – Can’t make up a lot of ground in coverage, if he makes a mistake with his reads he struggles to get back into position – Even though he is a powerful tackler, Allen exhibits poor tackling technique – Misses too many tackles due to poor angles ... Man to man coverage skills need a lot of work.

    Allen looks to be a quality prospect at the strong safety position, excelling as a run stopper during his tenure at South Carolina. Though he does bring some enticing versatility to the table, NFLDraftScout.com’s Brugler says

     that the former Gamecock projects as a special-teams thumper and in-the-box safety who will struggle in the deep half of the field, which will limit his effectiveness in the pros.

Travian Robertson, DT: Drafted by Atlanta Falcons, Seventh Round (249th Overall)

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    In what looks to be a fairly top-heavy defensive tackle class in this year's NFL draft, there figured to be a few gems in the later rounds. South Carolina defensive tackle Travian Robertson could very well fit the bill.

    At 6'4" and 302 lbs., Robertson is a prototypical penetrating tackle who has a ton of potential. Robertson didn't always perform to the best of his abilities on a stacked South Carolina defense as he piled up just 49 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season, but what he lacked in production, the fifth-year senior made up for in leadership in 2011.

    With how fast-paced most offenses are in the NFL today, plenty of defensive linemen are used. Because of that, Robertson has a very good chance of becoming a regular contributor at the next level.

    What Robertson Brings to the Team

    Robertson is a big-bodied guy with a non-stop motor, so he should be a very valuable asset in the NFL. Because he played parts of five seasons with the Gamecocks, Robertson is a polished product who likely won't have to be babied once his first NFL training camp starts. That is something that should help him get in the coaches' good graces right away.

    He may not be a player who is going to rack up the sacks or tackles for loss, but he is more than capable of taking up blockers in order to free up his linebackers and compatriots along the defensive line. That type of play isn't going to get him any endorsement deals, but it will most definitely endear him to his teammates and coaches.

    The best part about Robertson is that effort is never an issue. While it seems like that should be the case with every player, any football knows that it isn't. He may not be the most talented tackle in the draft, but he has all the intangibles that you look for, and they should be able to take him a long way.

    What Experts Are Saying

    There wasn't a ton of talk about Robertson during the lead up to the draft, as he has been viewed as a fairly anonymous prospect, but Pro Football Weekly had some positive things to say about him:

    Big-framed, strong nose tackle with solid character and leadership traits.

    There are some deficiencies that prevented him from being taken earlier in the draft. Pro Football Weekly believes that he "rises off the snap" and "spends too much time on the ground."

    The old adage in football is that the low man wins, so Robertson will have to learn to use his size and strength to his advantage by remaining low to the ground. This seems like a fundamental thing more than anything, so perhaps it can be fixed during training camp with a little help from his coaches.

    Rookie Impact

    While it isn't as if Robertson is going to be an instant starter or anything of that nature, there is a decent possibility that he will find his way into the rotation at defensive tackle spot this season. It is incredibly rare for a defensive tackle to play every down, so in certain running situations, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Robertson on the field for much of the season.

    Robertson was a dominant force in the East-West Shrine Game, so even though he wasn't always noticeable at South Carolina, he is capable of getting the job done against some top prospects. That bodes well for his training camp and preseason performances, and if he manages to impress, then I expect Robertson to be a useful player immediately.