Tony Jefferson Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Covers a lot of ground in pass defense
Generally a reliable tackler
Has some instincts
Good in pass coverage
Makes big impact tackles in the ground game
Strong run defender
Has some ball skills
Can play zone or man schemes
Lots of experience against pass-happy offenses
Can take bad angles
Can take false steps
Can get out of position
Not a physical enforcer; one forced fumble in three years
Lacks good weight room and practice habits
Summary: Over the past three seasons, Jefferson has been one of the top players on Oklahoma and one of the better safeties in the Big 12. He broke into the lineup as a freshman and made an immediate impact, as he was the Big XII Freshman of the Year in 2010. He started nine games and recorded 65 tackles with seven tackles for a loss, two sacks, two interceptions and seven passes broken up.
As a sophomore, he had 74 tackles with four interceptions, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for a loss, three passes broken up and one forced fumble. Three of his four interceptions came against Ball State. Jefferson was tremendous in 2011 and provided a number of splash plays for the Sooners.
In his junior season, Jefferson really improved his run defense. He led Oklahoma in tackles with 119. He also chipped in with two interceptions and three passes broken up. He was one of the few Sooners who came to play against Kansas State. Jefferson had 14 tackles with a tackle for a loss versus the Wildcats. The junior was excellent at making tackles on perimeter runs at the line of scrimmage even though he was lining up 10 yards away.
Jefferson had excellent games to lead the Sooners' defense against Notre Dame and Iowa State. He performed well in Oklahoma's other outings, including UTEP and Texas Tech. He had disappointing performances against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
While his run defense was much better, his pass coverage wasn't as strong. He took some bad angles and false steps at times. The West Virginia game was especially bad as he missed coverage and tackles on some huge passing plays to Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Jefferson's first half of the season was better than how he finished. Considering that, he maybe should've returned for his senior campaign.
Jefferson looks like he could be an impact free safety. He covers a lot of ground and should turn into a good defender in the deep part of the field. Jefferson also is good at charging the line of scrimmage to prevent runs from getting to the second level. Jefferson has the size and speed for the NFL with experience against high powered passing offenses. If he goes to a good coaching staff and works hard at his development, he definitely has the ability to be a solid starter.
WalterFootball.com heard from multiple sources that scouts were getting bad feedback from his coaches regarding Jefferson's work ethic in the weight room and on the practice field. When asked about it, Jefferson and Oklahoma denied that was the case, but that talk certainly was circulating around the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine. As a result, some believe that he could be headed to a draft day fall.
Player Comparison: Tanard Jackson. The former Buccaneer safety was turning into one of the best safeties in the NFC before drug problems ruined his career. Jackson was fast and instinctive to cover a lot of ground in the back end. He was capable of making splash plays and takeaways with good instincts. Jackson also contributed quality run defense.
When Jefferson is playing well, he has a similar style of play. He's bigger than Jackson and not quite as fast. If Jefferson is coached up well, he could be an impact free safety like Jackson showed signs of being. Off-the-field issues knocked Jackson from the second day to the fourth round. Jefferson could go anywhere from the third to the fifth round.
NFL Matches: Carolina, New York Jets, Washington, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Baltimore
There are a lot of teams that could use Jefferson on the second or third day of the 2013 NFL Draft. If Jefferson performs and interviews well at the combine that could make a big difference for him to go in the top 100.
The Panthers' safeties were dreadful in 2012, and Jefferson could probably play quickly for Carolina. The Jets are likely to lose LaRon Landry in free agency and Jefferson could be a potential replacement.
Washington has to improve its safety play. Jefferson's range and flexibility will appeal to defensive backs coach Raheem Morris. The Colts also need to upgrade their safeties. Their defense has missed a playmaker in the back end since injuries derailed Bob Sanders' career.
The Bengals need a safety to pair with Reggie Nelson, and Jefferson could be a nice complement. Jefferson makes sense for two other AFC North teams in the Steelers and Ravens. Both could use another safety, as Baltimore may lose Ed Reed in free agency.