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Sun, Feb 7, 2016

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Speed, not size will determine if Alshon Jeffery dazzles at combine

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Jeffery has the size and ability to make acrobatic catches that should intrigue NFL coaches. (US Presswire)  
Jeffery has the size and ability to make acrobatic catches that should intrigue NFL coaches. (US Presswire)  

INDIANAPOLIS -- South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery showed up at this week’s NFL scouting combine weighing 216 pounds, and that was smart. Now Jeffery should get smart again and show people what he can do with that weight.

Which is run.

He’s undecided if he’ll do it Sunday, saying he won’t make that decision until he sits down with his agent sometime before then. But Alshon Jeffery doesn’t need advice. He should do what he came here to do, and that’s demonstrated in that he’s not the full-figured receiver depicted in that locker-room photo that made the rounds of the Internet last week.

He took the first step Friday when he showed up considerably under the 240-250 pounds he was rumored to weigh. Now he can take another by running the 4.5 40 he believes he can run.

Look, he’s not a top-10 pick, all 32 NFL teams are here and if he falls short of expectations he can always run again at his pro day. I mean, what is there to lose? Nothing, which is why Alshon Jeffery shouldn’t stop what he’s doing now ... and, yes, I mean that literally. With everyone here, show the league you’re the wide receiver you think you can be.

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One look at the 6-foot-3 Jeffery tells people he’s not a guy eating his way down the draft board. In fact, at 216 he’s down 13 pounds from the weight at which he’s listed in the University of South Carolina media guide -- his lowest, he said, since high school.

Jeffery got there, he said, by eating more carefully and drinking a lot of water. All I know is that he looks like someone who might interest you if you’re sitting at the bottom of the first or top of the second round of this year’s draft.

"Right or wrong," said Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli, "this place [the NFL scouting combine] always hurts people and always helps people. Showing up like that probably helped him."

I’ll second that. But I want to know how much, and so do coaches, scouts and GMs who are here. It’s one thing to look faster. It’s another to be faster. No one questions Jeffery’s hands -- in fact, he claimed he has "the best hands" of any receiver in the draft -- but there are concerns about his conditioning and how it affects, or might affect, his speed.

That’s one reason Jeffery lost weight, and he said he believes it makes him faster. And he’s probably right. So let’s see how much.

"I just feel I’m more in shape and lighter," he said. "Now, I have to go out and prove myself."

Exactly. So run, Alshon, run.

At his best, Jeffery is a standout wide receiver who can dominate -- a guy with the size, hands and ability to make acrobatic, leaping catches that should intrigue NFL coaches. He once set single-season records at South Carolina for catches (86) and yards (1,517). And so his productivity dropped last season. But that wasn’t a product of a bad body; it was a product of bad quarterbacking -- that and an injury to star running back Marcus Lattimore that sidelined him the second half of the season.

Jeffery could be one of the top three of four wide receivers in this draft, and might -- just might -- make it into the first round. But he could use help, and he just got it by showing up in shape. Now, he needs to make the next move and prove what he can do -- and I’m not talking about catching the ball.

"Alshon Jeffery does not separate," the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said recently. "What those guys run [at the combine] is important ... Big and fast is good. Big and slow is bad. Bottom line is that he’s got to run well."

So run already. It just seems that if that’s a concern, and it is, you want as many opportunities to demonstrate that you’re the receiver you insist you can be. Alshon Jeffery can do that here, and if all goes well, he doesn’t need to run again. He will have made his case.

But if all does not ... well, he can run again. Simple as that.

"I want to show people that I’m a hard worker, that I learn real fast and that I want to be one of the best players ever," said Jeffery.

So show them. Now.


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