The good ol' ESPN SEC Blog published a post this morning that catalogued the SEC entries in Mel Kiper's top five in each position. Antonio Allen, Melvin Ingram, Stephon Gilmore, and Alshon Jeffery all charted (2, 2, 5 and 5 respectively.) Here's Kiper's snippet on Alshon:
With the season that Jeffery had in 2010, many thought he might battle Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon for the top spot at wide receiver. However, Jeffery received much more attention from defenders and struggled in 2011. Still, his size makes him extremely imposing and tough one-on-one.
Just a reminder that being a "draft expert" for anyone without the divine power of omnipresence is implausible. Kiper theorizes, ostensibly, that Alshon's inability to shake double coverages is enough to consider him the fifth best receiver in the draft. The term "struggled" is interesting, though. So general, so nonspecific! Having watched each game as I'm sure you all did, was your Alshon takeaway, "Wow, he sure did struggle this year!" Or was it be, say, "Wow, we sure do run the ball a lot!" Mel, no one can argue that Alshon's numbers were objectively lower than last year. But did you use anything besides those compiled receiving statistics to reach your conclusion? And if so, did ya happen to glance over the QB charts? Is it possible that other factors were at play here? Empirical evidence abounds, Mel!
Alshon Jeffery, pictured above, struggling amidst quadruple coverage.
My bigger gripe is Kiper's tacitly voiced concern with Alshon's inability to keep statistical pace with Justin Blackmon this year. While it's clear Blackmon is a gamer -- look for him to go top 10 after netting consecutive Biletnikoff statues -- how can any seasoned draft expert not recognize Blackmon's numbers are in part the function of a system? Hell, how can anyone with at least a passive knowledge of the greater CFB landscape not recognize it? Blackmon had a tremendous pro-style quarterback in an Air Raid offense lobbing 50 bombs a game. On the other side of that coin, Alshon was dealing with an unraveling Captain Brahsome, and then a transitional offense that settled into a run-first scheme. Alshon was getting 2 and 3 balls thrown his way in a game, and he learned to live with it even if it was costing him draft dollars.
By the by, I take nothing away from Blackmon's abilities, his draft status is well-earned. But pooh-poohing Alshon's statistical output vis-a-vis Blackmon's is akin to a pitting them in a race where one is sprinting unimpeded and the other is leaping hurdles (and maybe the odd Garcia empty.) It's a different set of a circumstances.
I'm not trying to stick up for Alshon here. I think he'll be fine wherever he lands. There isn't a team in the NFL that undervalues a 6'4" freak with banana-mitts and springs in his heels. It's really a criticism on Kiper's shortsighted analysis. Let's hope Mel and the gang are aghast come April, when Alshon's the second receiver to go.