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South Carolina Gamecocks in the NFL Draft: Did Alshon Jeffery Help or Hurt His Stock at the Combine?

Those of you who weren't too busy watching the baseball team sweep Elon, the men's basketball team get whipped by Tennessee, or the women's basketball team win its 20th game of the season probably noticed that the NFL Draft Combine was this weekend, with multiple Gamecocks represented. OK, you probably all noticed that, as we all know that football is king around here. Whatever the case may be, it was a big weekend for the Gamecocks who were there, perhaps most so for Alshon Jeffery. Over the past few weeks, many draftnicks have been down on Jeffery, citing concerns over his weight and speed. Weird internet rumors surfaced suggesting that he was over 250 and running a 4.88 40. Those interested in Jeffery's future have been eying the Combine as the big receiver's opportunity to silence his critics.

Mission accomplished on the weight front. After playing the past season at around 230, Jeffery weighed in at a trim 216. Needless to say, he's heard the critics and has made weight loss a priority for the last few weeks.

However, concerns remain about his speed. As ESPN's Kevin Seifert reports, Jeffery claims that he's capable of running in the 4.5 range. If he does so, it would likely benefit his draft stock immeasurably, propelling him solidly into the first round, perhaps into the first 15 picks as the second receiver off the board after Justin Blackmon. When Jeffery said yesterday that he was unsure whether he would run or not, many observers said that he undoubtedly should--no question about it. Some sure-fire top-ten picks decide not to participate in the 40 or other drills because they can only hurt their stock, but Jeffery has something to prove, the argument went.

Unfortunately for the curious, Jeffery elected not to run. Why he did so is between him and his agent, although presumably he feels like he will be able to run better in future workouts. The general feeling right now is that he made a mistake. Run poorly today, and he can still show out in future workouts. Run well, and he's set to be a high pick. Don't run, and he's under tons of pressure from here on out.

I'll have to say, though, that I think the hoopla surrounding Jeffery over the past few days has been a bit of a tempest in a teapot. Would it have helped Jeffery to run a good time today? Sure. However, he still helped his cause by showing up in better shape, and he'll still have a chance to run a good time, presumably after he's continued working with a speed coach. More importantly, though, NFL scouts aren't stupid. Jeffery has proven himself on the field countless times. Yes, his numbers were down last year, but anyone who paid even the slightest amount of attention to Carolina football this past season (hint: it's clear that the talking heads didn't) knows that Jeffery's numbers were down because (1) Stephen Garcia couldn't hit the broad side of a barn in the first five games and (2) our offensive line didn't give Connor Shaw time to throw during the middle part of the season. During the games when Shaw had time to throw (Kentucky, Clemson, and Nebraska), Jeffery looked like his old self again. That's what matters to the scouts. A good 40 time will help Jeffery may make a bit of a difference for Jeffery, but he'll be a late-first or early-to-mid-second-round pick even if he doesn't show out--and, just for the record, based on the fact that he's clearly putting his all into preparing for the draft, I think he will run that 4.5.