2017 NFL Draft

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Jonathan Hefney, FS

Height: 5-08 | Weight: 190 | College: Tennessee
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A tough, durable player with great team-first work ethic, Hefney has not only excelled in any secondary role the coaches have asked from him, but has also filled in as a primary punt returner with the ability to handle kickoff return duties.

Hefney would go on to start 50 games during his career, breaking the old school record of 49 starts by center Scott Wells (2000-03). That repeated a process he accomplished during high school, as he set the Rock Hill High record with 56 career starts, topping the previous mark of 55 by Tennessee Titans safety Chris Hope.

At Rock Hill High School, Hefney was listed by TheInsiders.com as a three-star prospect and the nation's 34th-ranked defensive back prospect. He was ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's 24th-best cornerback prospect and the 18th overall prospect in South Carolina as a senior in 2002. He was rated by Super Prep as the 11th-ranked overall prospect in South Carolina and named All-Region that year on both offense and defense.

Hefney led his team to a 15-0 record in 2002, coming up with more than 80 tackles and five interceptions as a senior, returning a pass theft and a fumble return for touchdowns. He also rushed 98 times from the quarterback position for 805 yards and 10 touchdowns, as he completed 32-of-62 passes for 500 yards and four touchdowns, while returning two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns. Rock Hill was the state's only undefeated prep team in 2002. As a junior, he made 81 tackles and intercepted five passes.

Hefney originally enrolled at Tennessee in 2003, but attended Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy instead, as he needed to improve his academics. He played cornerback and safety for head coach Robert Prunty, and after the season he rejoined Tennessee in time to compete in 2004 spring drills.

After coming off the bench in the 2004 season opener vs. Nevada-Las Vegas, Hefney would go on to start the final 12 games for the Vols at right cornerback. He posted 65 tackles (53 solos) with 2.5 stops for losses, 11 pass break-ups and an interception. He also averaged 5.0 yards on 23 punt returns.

Hefney shifted to free safety as a sophomore. He delivered 65 tackles (45 solos) in 11 games. He gained 63 yards on three interception returns and 149 yards on 13 punt returns (11.5 avg) while also deflecting six passes, earning Freshman All-American and Freshman All-Southeastern Conference honors.

As a junior in 2006, Hefney garnered All-American and All-SEC second-team honors, as he was also a Randy Moss Return Man Award semifinalist. Starting all 13 games at free safety, he posted 96 tackles (68 solos) with three stops for losses, three pass break-ups and five interceptions. He gained 206 yards on 17 punt returns (12.1 avg) and had two kickoff returns for 32 yards.

Hefney received first-team All-SEC recognition in 2007, as he again manned the free safety position, finishing third on the team with 96 tackles (59 solos) and two stops behind the line of scrimmage. He broke up six passes, picked off another and averaged 6.4 yards on 14 punt returns.

In 51 games at Tennessee, Hefney started 50 contests. He registered 322 tackles (225 solos) with an assisted sack for minus-12 yards and 11 stops for losses of 34 yards. He deflected 22 passes and intercepted 10 others for 139 yards in returns. He recovered one fumble, gained 138 yards on eight kickoff returns (17.3 avg) and 559 yards on 67 punt returns (8.3 avg).


Positives: Shows good hips, speed and explosion to get to the ball quickly … Has the agility and quickness to play well in space and does a good job of making tackles in the open field vs. smaller opponents … Fluid mover with good read-and-react skills, getting into position to assist on the play … Possesses good hands and shows the ability to read routes in man and zone coverage … Not really a physical hitter, but is a good pester type who knows how to get his body in the way to disrupt the play … Plays tougher than his size indicates, but will get powered-over vs. bigger opponents … Has very good balance and body control in his backpedal and has the closing speed to close with good urgency vs. plays in front of him … Makes quick decision based off his initial read and is not the type who will bite on pump fakes or misdirection … Has good eyes for understanding route progression and knows how to get his hands on the receiver's hip to maintain mirror throughout the pattern … Has the speed to recover and the burst to close on plays along the perimeter … Shows smooth and fluid moves in his backpedal and good hips to turn and run coming out of his breaks … There is no hesitation or wasted steps in his plant-and-drive … You can see on film that he has the feet, flexibility and suppleness to pedal and turn with good ease of movement … Looks smooth when transitioning deep or coming back up on short routes … Shows good field awareness, putting himself into position to make plays on the ball and doesn't often misdiagnose routes when playing in the zone … Has good discipline and awareness to handling the zone switch-off, but could be a bit quicker in doing this than he showed as a senior … Does a good job of reacting to routes and anticipating throws, as he has the valid feet, speed and burst to make plays on the ball when covering on deep routes … Gets a good break out of his cuts to track the ball in flight (just lacks leaping ability to compete for jump balls) … Shows natural ability to adjust and track the ball and has the soft hands to look the ball in and catch it in stride … Has good hands to catch the ball outside his frame (hands are as valid as that of a receiver) … Best when making open-field tackles, as he has good wrap-up technique to bring down smaller receivers and impede the forward progress of bigger runners until help arrives … Will revert to a lot of side tackling or ankle-biting and going for the legs when working in tight areas, but can put on a hit when he has the chance (best when he can pick his spots, as he doers not have the power to blow up behind his hits).

Negatives: Has marginal size, both in height and bulk … Needs to be pushed in the weight room and while an efficient tackler, his distain for lifting weights has prevented him from adding needed bulk and strength he will need for the next level … Compensates for a lack of power with good ball recognition skills, but he needs to improve his work ethic, as he will do what is asked in regards to training, but not much more … Must show better courage as a punt returner, as he will call for more than a share of fair catches … As a returner, he lacks the loose hips and change of direction skills, along with a quick burst to elude … Also has some problems looking the ball in and is not regarded as a player who can handle these duties full-time in the pros … Willing in run support, but a lack of bulk and power sees him get bounced around quite a bit when working in closed quarters … Brings no value as a blitzer, as he spends too much time running around blocks, taking a wide loop that will generally make him late to close … Gets good position to wrap and secure, but does not have the lower body strength to impact the bigger ballcarriers who have good success powering through his arm tackles or by simply running over him … Gets absorbed too much by bigger people when working in the box to be effective filling the rush lanes … While he is a good form tackler, he fails to hit with good pop on contact and tends to take a side when taking on bigger runners rather than have them obliterate him on the field … Marginal in man coverage, as he can get turned around by the receiver and does not have the second gear to recover … His poor timing and marginal leaping ability sees him lose more than a fair share of jump ball battles … Does not have the hand jolt to reroute tight ends or impede the route progression of bigger receivers.

Compares To: JIM LEONHARD-Buffalo … Hefney is an instinctive player who can close on the ball in a hurry, but unless he suddenly develops a fondness for the weight room, his lack of size, bulk and strength will cause some serious problems at the next level, especially when he has to play in the box vs. the run. He is a decent punt returner, but not one who will be able to find the end zone, even occasionally. He might be a better fit for cornerback, but his marginal leaping skills and poor hand placement will see him struggle trying to reroute bigger receivers. He might be a nice second-day fit for a sub package, but unless he suddenly turns into Jack LaLanne overnight, his lack of strength will be hard to justify putting him on the field every down. Do not listen to some experts' comparisons to Indianapolis' Bob Sanders. Outside of both being undersized safeties, there is nothing these two have similar in their style of play, physique or hitting ability.

Career Notes

Hefney's 322 tackles set a school career record for defensive backs … His 50 career starts broke the old school record of 49 by center Scott Wells (2000-03) … His 225 solo tackles set another Tennessee all-time record for defensive backs and rank 11th overall … His 10 pass thefts placed him 13th on the Vols' career interception chart.

2007 Season

All-Southeastern Conference first-team selection by the league's coaches … Lott Trophy semi-finalist … Started all year at free safety, ranking third on the team with 96 tackles (59 solos), including two stops for losses of 8 yards … Intercepted one pass and deflected six others … Returned fourteen punts for 89 yards (6.4 avg) and had a 15-yard kickoff return.

2007 Game Analysis

California … Two of his eight tackles (4 solos) in the season opener came on third-down plays, but he also missed on six other potential tackles, as he was uncharacteristically reckless in his pursuit skills.

Southern Mississippi … Gained 34 yards on two punt returns, 15 yards on a kickoff return and posted a trio of tackles.

Florida … Followed with seven tackles (6 solos), including two third-down stops … "What Hefney gives you is your best tackler inside and a great guy coverage-wise on your (slot receivers)," Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis said.

Arkansas State … Struggled all day, as he posted two tackles with a pass break-up, but muffed the handling on several punts, finishing with minus 17 yards on four attempts.

Georgia … Broke up a pair of Matthew Stafford pass attempts and had two tackles while also picking off a Stafford throw with 3:34 left to play … Caught the ire of head coach Phillip Fulmer for calling for two fair catches on punt returns that the staff felt could have been easily returned.

Mississippi State … Had his best day as a punt returner in 2007, gaining 64 yards on five attempts while collecting five tackles (3 solos), including one that stopped tailback Anthony Dixon for a 2-yard loss at the MSU 16 on a mid second quarter run … Was beaten by Tony Burks on a Wesley Carroll 38-yard touchdown toss in the first quarter, when the safety was misaligned on the play.

Alabama … Came up with nine tackles (8 solos) and a pair of third-down hits.

South Carolina … Registered eleven tackles (9 solos) and gained 6 yards on a pair of punt returns, but the Tennessee safeties saw another big-time receiver feasted on the Vols' zone coverages, as Kenny McKinley had 14 catches for 151 yards, doing most of his damage in the second half. UT seems almost helpless vs. really good receivers.

Louisiana-Lafayette … Had six tackles and broke up one pass, but because of his caution returning punts (too many fair catches in 2007), he was relieved from handling those duties the rest of the season.

Arkansas … Delivered eight stops (4 solos), including one third-down stop and deflected a pass.

Vanderbilt … Chased down receiver Earl Bennett for a 6-yard loss on a late first quarter reverse, finishing with eight tackles (3 solos).

Kentucky … Credited with a nine-tackle performance.

Louisiana State (SEC Championship) … Collected ten tackles (6 solos) and a pass break-up.

Wisconsin (Outback Bowl) … Closed out his career with eight solo tackles.

2006 Season

Randy Moss Return Man Award semi-finalist … Rivals.com All-American second-team pick … Added All-SEC second-team honors from the league's coaches and Associated Press … Started all thirteen games at free safety, registering 96 tackles (68 solos) with three stops for losses of 6 yards, a fumble recovery and three pass deflections … Gained 75 yards on five interceptions and 206 yards on 17 punt returns (12.1 avg) … Added 32 yards on a pair of kickoff returns (16.0 avg).

2006 Game Analysis

Set career high with 17 tackles (8 solos) vs. Air Force … Had nine tackles (5 solos) and one pass deflection vs. Florida … Added 12 tackles (9 solos), a stop for a 1-yard loss, two kick-off returns for 32 yards and a 16-yard interception return vs. Marshall … Added six tackles, a stop for a 2-yard loss and an interception vs. Georgia … Had another interception vs. Memphis … Posted four tackles and one pass deflection vs. Alabama, as he also gave the Vols a big boost with his punt return ability, with six attempts punts for 104 yards … Had a career-long 65-yard punt return and two tackles vs. South Carolina … Recorded 15 tackles (11 solos) with a pass break-up and returned an interception for 30 yards vs. Louisiana State … Led the team with nine tackles and recovered fumble vs. Arkansas … Had seven tackles and made his team leading fifth interception of the season vs. Vanderbilt, as he returned the pass theft 29 yards … Finished the regular season with eight tackles vs. Kentucky … Had three stops vs. Penn State in the Outback Bowl.

2005 Season

Shifted to free safety, starting all eleven games … Recorded 65 tackles (45 solos) with three interceptions for 63 yards in returns and six pass deflections … Returned 13 punts for 149 yards (11.5 avg).

2005 Game Analysis

Returned an interception 26 yards and posted five stops vs. Louisiana State … Had six hits (5 solos) and a pass deflection vs. Mississippi … Added fourteen tackles (8 solos) with a stop behind the line of scrimmage vs. Georgia … Gained 37 yards on an interception return and tallied nine tackles (8 solos) in the South Carolina clash … Posted four tackles and had two punt returns for 45 yards vs. Memphis … Totaled seven solo tackles with a stop for a loss and returned five punts for 76 yards in the Vanderbilt clash … Closed out the season with four tackles and a pass theft vs. Kentucky.

2004 Season

Earned Freshman All-American second-team honors from The Sporting News … Freshman All-SEC choice by the league's coaches and the Knoxville News-Sentinel … Played in thirteen games, starting the final twelve contests at right cornerback … Recorded 65 tackles (53 solos) with 2.5 stops for losses of 17 yards … Deflected eleven passes and picked off another … Returned 23 punts for 115 yards (5.0 avg) and five kickoffs for 91 yards (18.2 avg).

2003 Season

Attended Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, playing cornerback and free safety for head coach Robert Prunty.

Injury Report

No injuries reported.

Agility Tests

Campus: 4.59 in the 40-yard dash … 330-pound bench press … 450-pound squat … 32-inch vertical jump … 9'2" broad jump.

Combine: 4.59 in the 40-yard dash … Bench pressed 225 pounds 14 times … 29-inch vertical jump.

High School

Attended Rock Hill (S.C.) High School, playing football for head coach Jim Ringer … Listed by TheInsiders.com as a three-star prospect and the nation's 34th-ranked defensive back prospect … Ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's 24th-best cornerback prospect and the 18th overall prospect in South Carolina as a senior in 2002 … Rated by Super Prep as the 11th-ranked overall prospect in South Carolina and named All-Region that year on offense and defense … Led his team to a 15-0 record in 2002, coming up with more than 80 tackles and five interceptions as a senior, returning a pass theft and a fumble return for touchdowns … Also rushed 98 times from the quarterback position for 805 yards and 10 touchdowns, as he completed 32-of-62 passes for 500 yards and four touchdowns, while returning two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns … Rock Hill was the state's only undefeated prep team in 2002 … As a junior, he made 81 tackles and intercepted five passes.


Graduated in December, 2007 with a degree in Political Science … Born 2/27/85 … Resides in Rock Hill, South Carolina.


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