Jefferson will not meet all NFL teams’ size requirements for the safety position, but they overlook him at their own risk. The success of pro safeties with similar measurements like Jairus Byrd, Troy Polamalu, T.J. Ward, and Donte Whitner will undoubtedly help Oklahoma’s strong and athletic defender get his chance as an early selection at the next level.
His lack of height obviously didn’t turn off major college programs from chasing Jefferson, a top-100 prospect out of California. It also didn’t keep him off the field for the Sooners in his first year on campus, as he started nine contests as an extra defensive back and earned the Big 12’s Defensive Freshman of the Year award with 65 tackles, seven for loss, seven pass break-ups and two interceptions –- one which he returned for a 22-yard touchdown against Connecticut in the team’s Fiesta Bowl victory. Jefferson’s role only got bigger as a sophomore, as he started 12 games (played sparingly vs. Texas A&M with a right knee injury), making plays near the line against the run and as a blitzer (74 tackles, 7.5 for loss, 4.5 sacks) while also leading the team with four interceptions (three coming against Ball State). He was an honorable mention All-Big 12 pick (coaches, media) in 2011. In his junior season, Jefferson recorded 119 tackles, two interceptions, and three passes defended. He was named a second-team AP All-American for his efforts.
Athletic, tough-minded safety. Plays all over the field, in a stack, on slot receivers, and single-high. Can lay the wood. Explosive blitzer who times his start well and brings pop as a tackler. Discards poor blocking attempts by fullbacks and receivers with hands and tenacity to make a play on the ball. Maintains outside leverage when playing containment responsibilities to force run plays inside. Good ball skills, follows receivers’ eyes in man or keeps his in the backfield in zone to break on passes. Flashes the hands to make the one-handed grab and is competitive in 50/50 and jump ball situations. Covers running backs on wheel routes adeptly, and can take away safety valve routes from slot receivers. Should be a special teams force early in his career due to his aggressive nature, speed, and tackling ability. Infectious attitude that helps him be a team leader.
Short and lacks the ideal bulk for a NFL defensive back. Does not have elite speed, will fall behind better slot receivers on crosses if unable to get a hand on them off the line. Stays high in his backpedal and will stop his feet when lined up off the slot, receivers can eat up cushion. Linemen and tight ends use their superior size and length to engulf him in the run game. Poor tackling technique, will launch himself or dive at ball carriers, resulting in missed tackles.
Though shorter than most top safety prospects, Jefferson’s leadership skills, physicality around the line of scrimmage and his coverage skills will entice teams to pick him early in the 2013 draft.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.