South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery is one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft because of his sheer size and ball skills. He is a physically dominating receiver who is the ideal red zone target, yet questions surround his game when he’s running in other areas of the field.
After a superb sophomore year, Jeffery’s production was nearly cut in half, and many questioned his work ethic because of his ballooning weight. The tape from his junior year appears to show a disinterested Jeffery at times and a less dominant player, which is the antithesis of what Gamecock fans came to expect on Saturdays. That raises the question: can he regain his form at the next level?
One of the reasons Jeffery was such an imposing figure on Saturdays was because of what appeared to be his towering size. Along with a 36 1/2″ vertical, Jeffery measured in at nearly 6’3″ and 216 pounds, which was much less than the media expected. Although his height appeared to be more than a full inch less than what was shown on the South Carolina football website, he still showed off good stature and length (33″ long arms) as well as massive hands, which measured in at an eye-popping 10 1/4″.
Jeffery mainly lined up on the outside, but there were many occasions in which he lined up in the slot and worked the seam, which is located in between the hashes. When he ran routes on the outside, they were commonly deep comebacks, posts and go routes, while from the inside, he ran corner routes and basics, which is also known as a 12-14 yard dig route.
Speaking of running routes, that’s an area of Jeffery’s game where there are questions to answer. Can he get out of his breaks quickly? Can he sink his hips? To sum it up, can he simply separate?
I have my doubts about those aspects of his game because he was not the most effective while attempting to create separation. Despite making a plethora of big plays during his career at South Carolina, many of which came from vertical passes that enabled him to use his height, he was not the most fluid route runner. He wasn’t very quick out of his breaks, and defenders often played loose coverage on him because of his physicality and deep-threat ability.
Where he ran into issues is when he faced an agile corner that was willing to press him. He wasn’t able to separate from them often, and this led to him attempting to compensate with his physicality, which sometimes worked, but often it didn’t.
While he doesn’t have elite short area quickness to separate from multiple routes that he’s required to run, Jeffery does have long speed to press defenses vertically. He ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, which showed me what I saw on the tape: he has a long stride that enables him to cover ground quickly, and because of his build-up speed, he’s able to get behind defensive backs.
This was evident on many plays over his career, which is why he was so effective catching the deep ball. Defensive backs had to respect this ability, and it showed in the way they played him — lots of loose coverage.
Arguably his greatest strength, Jeffery is exceptional at catching the ball because of his big hands and wide catching radius. He has long arms to go along with excellent timing and ball skills when attempting to reach the ball at its highest peak. His ability to catch the ball at different areas, whether it be very high or very low, is impressive.
He consistently goes up and catches the ball with aggressiveness, taking ownership of it and not being slowed down by the defender in the process.
Yards After Catch
The ability to gain yards after the catch is a very interesting part of the evaluation of Jeffery’s talents. The reason I found this interesting was because despite his great size and strength, he has weak ankles and it shows when defensive backs target them to easily bring him down.
However, his aforementioned strength comes into play when he catches the ball in space. That enables him to get a running start and build up speed and he’s able to fend off defensive backs with his long arms. He is very strong in his upper body and is able to deal with defenders attempting to tackle him in space, especially when they go high near his shoulders.
There are a lot of questions that have been brought up about Jeffery this offseason, ranging from questions about his talent to his production and intangibles. As I always say, the tape never lies, and what it shows is a very intriguing wide receiver that could be physically dominant at the next level, or potentially a bust because of his lack of short area quickness.
It will be very interesting to monitor his career to see what kind of numbers he produces, or if he produces at all.