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April 27, 2012

Jeffery headed to the Windy City



All the speculation, innuendo and gossip about former South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery mercifully came to an end on Friday night.

Jeffery, one of the most discussed, criticized and scrutinized players over the past two months, was selected by the Chicago Bears with the 13th pick of the second round (No. 45 overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft on Friday night.

The Bears traded up five spots from No. 50 to take Jeffery.

Jeffery was the seventh wide receiver taken and the third in the second round. He was also the third former Gamecock player to hear his name called in the draft after CB Stephon Gilmore (No. 10 to Buffalo) and DE/OLB Melvin Ingram (No. 18 to San Diego) went off the board in the first round on Thursday night.

"This guy is a jump-ball specialist and a red zone weapon," NFL.com draft analyst Bucky Brooks said after the pick was announced. "He is one of the most talented receivers you will find in the draft. He can make plays down the field. He is a big-bodied receiver much like Brandon Marshall, who will play on the opposite side. He can go and get the football at the highest point."

After four wide receivers were taken in the first round on Thursday night, Jeffery watched Brian Quick of Appalachian State (and Ridge View HS in Columbia) and Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech get selected before the Bears finally took his name off the board.

NFL draft expert Mike Mayock said the biggest issue for many scouts and GMs with Jeffery was his weight. He played the 2011 season at about 230 pounds, but weighed just 213 pounds at USC's Pro Day when he ran the 40 in 4.5 seconds.

"He ran very well and some people thought that would elevate his draft status. I did not," Mayock said. "The question is which kid are you getting? Are you getting the 213-pound kid or the 230-pound after you hand him a bunch of money."

NFL.com draft analysts Charles Davis compared Jeffery to New Orleans WR Marcus Colston.

"They have similar type bodies, although Jeffery has a little bigger body and Colston is more lean and angular," Davis said. "Can Jeffery convert his body so he can more of a big slot type guy as Colston is running all those routes inside and be able to uncover himself. Colston can uncover himself at 6-5. Can Jeffery do the same?"

Together with Marshall and slot receivers Earl Bennett and Devin Hester, Jeffery should form a solid and talented wide receiver corps for outspoken Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

"There are few receivers in the end zone that are as good as this guy," Bears GM Phil Emery told reporters at a Friday night press conference in the Windy City. "We feel he is the best sideline and endzone catcher in the draft. He was the highest rated player on our board when we took him.

"We're going to be hard to handle in terms of size and physicalness and ball skills with the wideouts we have."

Jeffery is the second USC wide receiver to be selected by the Bears in the NFL Draft, joining Marcus Robinson in 1997.

Pro Football Weekly's 2012 Draft Preview said Jeffery possesses "outstanding size and arm length to climb the ladder and outmuscle defensive backs" and he "attacks the ball in the air and can pluck it away from a crowd."

Jeffery vowed to put the bad publicity he's received over the past two months - it sped into overdrive when he declined to work out at the NFL Combine - behind him and get prepared for the NFL.

Jeffery pledged to work hard and the team obviously got the answers it wanted when he was brought in for a pre-draft visit.

"When I get to Chicago you can see for yourself firsthand and the team as well," Jeffery said in a teleconference. "So they can talk about my work ethic and see for themselves. I'm just ready."

Jeffery, who elected to forego his final year of college eligibility, finished his USC career with 183 receptions and a school-record 3,042 receiving yards (2nd all-time in the SEC) with 23 touchdowns (matching the school record). His best season came in 2010 when he accumulated 88 receptions for 1,517 yards, both single-season records for the Gamecocks.

Jeffery was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, presented to the nation's top receiver in 2010.

Last season, he led USC with 49 receptions for 762 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught a pass in his last 36 games, the second-longest streak in school history.

He had one of his most memorable games in the 30-13 Capital One Bowl victory over Nebraska when he had a 78-yard catch-and-run and a 51-yard TD catch on a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half. He was ejected late in the third quarter after getting involved in a scuffle with a Nebraska cornerback.

USC PLAYERS SELECTED IN 2012 NFL DRAFT:
1. Stephon Gilmore - Buffalo (1st Rd, No. 10);
2. Melvin Ingram - San Diego (1st Rd, No. 18);
3. Alshon Jeffery - Chicago (2nd Rd, No. 45).

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