2013 NFL Draft Prospects: Tony Jefferson

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 26: Linebacker Tony Jefferson #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates a play in the first half against the Iowa State Cyclones on November 26, 2011 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Iowa State 26-6. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

Our look at the top NFL prospects in the Big 12 continues with a breakdown of Oklahoma's junior safety, who has the chance to become the latest defensive star out of Norman.

The next stop on my tour of the Big 12 is the University of Oklahoma. The Sooners are always a contender under Bob Stoops, with a defense that usually features some of the best talent in the country. Safety Tony Jefferson is only entering his junior season, but he has already established himself as a premier talent.

Jefferson is part of a loaded class of safeties eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft, one of the best in many years. For whatever reason, the safeties entering the draft recently have just not been up to par. But with the NFL becoming more of a passing league, the emphasis on good safety play is becoming even more important.

Jefferson will have to make a tough decision at the end of the year. What his decision will look like, and what the NFL Draft advisory board will tell him, depends in large part on the next four months.

Tale Of The Tape

  • Class: Junior
  • School: Oklahoma
  • Position: Safety
  • Height: 5-11
  • Weight: 212
  • Hometown: Chula Vista, California

Jefferson was a four-star recruit coming out of high school in California. He originally committed to play for UCLA, but changed his mind and decided to go to Oklahoma. While he came to Norman as a highly rated safety prospect, he had also played linebacker and running back in high school.

As a freshman in 2010, he started 9 games and appeared in all 14. Jefferson was a big addition to the Oklahoma defense, and his versatility allowed Oklahoma to play him all over the field. He recorded 65 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 2 interceptions and was named the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year.

Last year, he became a full-time starter. After being used primarily as a nickelback, he made the transition to safety, recording 74 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 4 interceptions.

Jefferson has been bounced around the defense and he hasn't truly had one position during his entire college career. He started off as a linebacker, played some cornerback and was finally moved to the safety position. However, it looks like he has finally found his home on the football field.

Tony Jefferson vs Texas, Oklahoma St, and Iowa in 2011 (via JmpasqDraftjedi)

Positives

  • Versatile player who can play a variety of positions
  • Smooth hips allow him to move well in space and change direction quickly
  • Good hands
  • Potential playmaker at the next level
  • Good in man coverage
  • Great at blitzing
  • Loves to be physical, looks for the highlight reel type of hit
  • High motor
  • Possesses good football IQ, which probably comes from playing a variety of positions

Negatives

  • Needs more experience playing one position, which is safety
  • Has good awareness, but his lack of experience playing safety will show at times
  • Must clean up his tackling technique
  • Isn't at his best in zone coverage and must work on his technique

In my opinion, Jefferson would probably benefit from returning to school in 2013 and playing his senior season. He has tremendous upside as a safety in the NFL, but he needs the time to grow and learn the position. If he stays for two more seasons, he should be a lock for the first round.

But if he decides to enter the draft, I still believe that he is worth a top-50 selection. The second round would be a good spot for him since the team that selects him would understand they might not be getting a player ready to start right away.

Not many safeties have the athletic ability that Tony Jefferson has. He has the potential to become a playmaker, but he just needs more time to master the nuances of the position.

Early Grade: Top-50 Selection (2nd round pick)

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