It’s pretty clear that the Vikings are either going to pick Matt Kalil, Morris Claiborne or trade down in the first round. So let’s take the draft analysis a step further and preview players the Vikings might take with their second pick. In case you’re wondering, I’m using my own instincts and the various mock drafts to select players to preview. So for all I know, these guys will all be gone in the first round, or will still be available when the Vikings draft in the third round. If it's the latter, let's all pretend this was a third round preview, ok? Thanks.
There’s something very familiar about Alshon Jeffery. He’s a big guy, standing 6’3 and weighing in at 213 pounds, and he has hands like tennis rackets. In a uniform, he looks a lot like Mike Williams, a former receiver for USC (the other USC) and a player that the Vikings passed on to draft Troy Williamson (which was good?). His skill set looks a lot like Williams’ did as well. Unlike Williams, though, Jeffery has improved himself since he finished playing college football, dropping 15 pounds from his listed weight and lowering his forty time to between 4.4 and 4.5 seconds (Williams weighed 231 lbs at the Combine and ran a 4.59 forty).
Unlike the last two wide receivers the Vikings’ drafted from South Carolina, Jeffery was a dominant player in college. Well, at least he was a dominant player until his senior year when the South Carolina quarterback situation fell apart, wrecking his stats and the entire Gamecock offense. When there was someone to get the ball in his general area, Jeffery was able to out jump, out reach and out physical the coverage and he almost always brought the ball in. Of course, his numerous circus catches aren't too surprising considering how big his hands are (10 ¼ inches).
What Jeffery wasn’t able to do, however, was out run his coverage. He lacked a burst in college, and his top speed wasn’t particularly impressive. To compensate, he used his size and leaping ability, but his route running wasn’t crisp enough to create much space. While he was generally able to exploit what space he did find, whether he’ll be able to create even that much separation when he faces stronger and more athletic coverage is an open question, especially considering he struggled against press coverage.
Cutting the weight might be enough to give Jeffery the burst and speed necessary to be successful in the NFL. Williams didn’t drop weight coming into the draft. If anything, Williams had put on weight. But is it enough to separate Jeffery from Williams? The reliance on physicality and general athleticism seems similar, as does the average speed. Jeffery might avoid the mediocre career of Williams, but even if he does, it’s unlikely he’ll be much more than a possession receiver and a useful red zone target.