Friday, April 6, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: The Mystery of Alshon Jeffery

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?
136342009_crop_340x234Mike 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 MatchupResult
GeorgiaBrandon Boykin7 receptions; 103 yards
AuburnNational Championship Defense8 receptions; 192 yards; 2 touchdowns
AlabamaDre Kirkpatrick7 receptions; 127 yards; 2 touchdowns
VanderbiltCasey Hayward9 receptions; 158 yards; 1 touchdown
FloridaJanoris Jenkins6 receptions; 53 yards
Clemson Rivalry Game
5 receptions; 141 yards; 1 touchdown
Florida StateBowl 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
GeorgiaBrandon Boykin5 receptions; 85 yards; 1 touchdown
VanderbiltCasey Hayward2 receptions; 34 yards
AuburnSEC Defense5 receptions; 86 yards; 1 touchdown
FloridaSEC Defense2 receptions; 29 yards; 1 touchdown
Rivalry Game2 receptions; 17 yards
Alfonzo Dennard4 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.

Friday, February 10, 2012

South Carolina Gamecocks Head into 2012 with One of the Deepest Backfields

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 08:  Marcus Lattimore #21 of the South Carolina Gamecocks runs with the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)Str

As if having Marcus Lattimore wasn't enough, the South Carolina Gamecocks will go into this season with what could be the deepest backfield not only in the SEC, but in the country.
Kenny Miles has decided to return for his senior year, and the Gamecocks also managed to recruit the sixth-best running back in this year's class in Mike Davis.
Not only are the Gamecocks getting new legs, but they will be getting healthier legs from Shon Carson, who was regarded as the second-best running back on the team going into the season.
Brandon Wilds also proved that he could be a force for the Gamecocks and carry the load when Lattimore needs a breather. 
Oh, and then they have Connor Shaw. Yes, he's a quarterback, but if teams give him a lane, he can easily take it the distance. He's one of the fastest quarterbacks in the country and is a great complement to South Carolina's offense.
With Alshon Jeffery leaving for the NFL and no other receiver that has shined, the Gamecocks will have to rely more heavily on the running game. They have some quality recruits coming in at receiver including the fifth-best receiver in the class in Shaq Roland, but neither of them are proven and will need time to adjust to the speed of the game and the physicality of SEC defense's. 
The Gamecock's running back depth chart could as follows when the season begins on August 30th: 
1.) Marcus Lattimore: Junior 
 There's nothing to really discuss here. Lattimore is the best running back in the country when  healthy and will have a lot to do with the season the Gamecock's have this year. Last year, he was  leading the SEC in rushing before going down with a knee injury against Mississippi State that kept  him out the whole year.
Lattimore has said that he will be stronger and faster next season and his  knee won't be a problem. A stronger and faster Marcus Lattimore? I wouldn't want to be playing  linebacker for any team facing South Carolina.
123955562_crop_340x234Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
2.) Shon Carson: Sophomore
 Carson was a key recruit for the Gamecocks and was supposed to back up Lattimore all of last  season. However, his season was also cut short due to a knee injury but is expected to return at full strength next year.
His running style compares to that of Marcus Lattimore's and is great at  catching the ball out of the backfield. Expect him to be the main guy when Lattimore is taking a  breather.
3.) Kenny Miles: Senior
Miles filled in admirably for Marcus Lattimore and was an integral part to the Gamecock's strong finish. He had a great game against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl which might have convinced him to come back for his last season as it had been speculated that he wouldn't come back after this year. Miles is a smaller back compared to Lattimore and Carson and is also very good at catching the ball out of the backfield. He will be a nice change of pace back to complement Lattimore and Carson.
4.) Brandon Wilds: Sophomore
Wilds basically came out of nowhere last season to help fill the void left by Marcus Lattimore. He wasn't highly recruited out of high school and nearly redshirted before the season began. He was able to move his way up the depth chart and a couple of injuries helped him get on the field to  prove what he can do. He is also a big back that has the ability to break tackles and has deceptive speed. He will compete with Miles for the third spot on the depth chart and might give Carson a run  for his money.
5.) Mike Davis: Freshman
One of the Gamecock's prized recruits this year, Mike Davis has the ability to be a top running back in the SEC. He fits the mold of the other running backs in the roster as he is also a bruising back that has the ability to break tackles and has one of the best spin moves I have ever seen. He will have a lot of work to do to beat the running backs ahead of him for playing time and might redshirt this season.