The University of South Carolina held its pro day on Wednesday, which is notable because the Gamecocks have 3 highly-rated prospects and it’s all but certain that the program will boast a pair of 1st-round picks in the draft, something that hasn’t happened since 1981.
Hybrid DE/OLB Melvin Ingram is the highest-rated player coming out of South Carolina this year, but right on his heels – and rising fast – is CB Stephon Gilmore. We’ll discuss both of those players briefly at the end of this blog entry.
The more relevant player for the Vikings, however, is South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffery. He’s a tough player to figure out because he’s faced plenty of criticism in the pre-draft build up, especially about his weight, but he’s also a beast of a WR and flashed signs of a play-making WR at the NFL level while playing for Steve Spurrier at South Carolina.
Jeffery measures in at 6-4, giving him ideal size for an outside receiver. The potential trouble is that he’s played at a weight of 235 pounds, which is a bit heavier than you’d like to see from an NFL WR. As Mike Mayock noted in this video on NFL.com, the big issue surrounding Jeffery’s draft stock is that teams won’t be sure which player – the heavy, inconsistent one or the big, physical freakish athletic one – you’re drafting.
“Remember, here’s the key, he played at 235 pounds,” Mayock says. “Today (at his pro day), 213 pounds, a 22-pound differential and he ran well. I had him at 4.50 and 4.51 (in the 40-yard dash). So, the question that NFL teams are going to have regarding Alshon Jeffery is “Which guy are you getting?” Are you getting the 235-pound guy that on tape doesn’t look like he’s a 4.5 guy? Or are you getting a kid that at 213 pounds looks completely different? I still think he’s a second-round pick.”
If he is available for the Vikings in the 2nd round at pick #35, it’s an intriguing option for a team that needs help at the outside WR position. From the reports I’ve read and people I’ve asked, there are parts of Jeffery’s game that make him well-worth a 2nd-round pick. He has ideal size, long arms and huge hands, outstanding ball skills and body control on downfield routes, adequate short-area quickness and is a willing run blocker. On the other hand, he doesn’t have elite top-end speed, at times neglects the details of route running, tends to have bad posture on quick routes and deep crossing routes, doesn’t always create separation and isn’t explosive off the line.
Many of those negatives are correctable deficiencies, especially when you have one of the best WR coaches in the NFL, which the Vikings do in George Stewart. Plus, the positives I listed are very enticing for a team with a young QB and an offense that needs a kickstart.
It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out with Jeffery. If the Vikings wind up with him, I’ll be anxious to see him in this offense.
As for the other two aforementioned players, Gilmore and Ingram, there are fewer questions. NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi stressed that Ingram is a player best-suited for a 3-4 defensive scheme, and both Lombardi and Mayock agreed that Ingram must be moved around within the defense to avoid him getting worn out by physical offensive guards. Mayock was very high on Gilmore, so much so that there’s virtually no chance he’ll be available for the Vikings in the 2nd round.
Gilmore is a pure cover corner who, as Lombardi explained, tends to win at the top of routes instead of at the beginning of routes (at the line of scrimmage). This means he’s more likely to intercept passes, whereas a CB who wins early in routes is more prone to disrupting the route and preventing his receiver from even being targeted with a throw. Mayock was more certain that Gilmore will go in the Top 15 and perhaps even the Top 10, while Lombardi and Brian Baldinger of NFL Network wondered aloud whether Gilmore would be selected before Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick. All 3 NFL Network analysts said Gilmore will be a starter this fall in the NFL.
Tags: 2012 NFL Draft
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