Former Texas Longhorns defensive end/outside linebacker Jackson Jeffcoat won't hear his name called in the 2014 NFL Draft during the first round on Thursday, but the projected third or fourth round pick should come off the board some time on Friday or Saturday.
A former five-star prospect coming out of high school, Jeffcoat had to battle through injuries his first three seasons on campus, including a season-ending pectoral tear in 2012 that limited him to only six games played. When he finally was able to remain healthy for an entire season last fall, he led Texas in tackles (86), tackles for loss (22) and sacks (13.0), winning the Ted Hendricks Award as the top defensive end in the country and earning honors as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
In the last 29 seasons of Texas football, only Alex Okafor in 2012 had more sacks than Jeffcoat did in 2013. And the 60 career tackles for loss recorded by Jeffcoat ranks tied for second on the career list for the Longhorns, despite the fact that he missed all that time in 2012.
The 6'3, 247-pounder may end up changing positions once he lands with his future team, as some organizations have him projected as an outside linebacker after he spent his Texas career primarily as a defensive end:
"Some teams have told me defensive end, others have told me outside linebacker because they've seen me drop before," Jackson Jeffcoat says. "I don't mind playing either. I just want to play."
In order to prepare for that eventuality, Jeffcoat went through outside linebacker position drills during the Texas Pro Day back in March and generally looked pretty fluid taking his drops.
Running a 4.63 40 at the NFL combine was a major accomplishment for Jeffcoat because it showed off his pure speed, proving that he can cover enough ground at the next level to make the move from defensive end to outside linebacker if necessary. His agility numbers were also among the best recorded at the combine for his position.
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Known as an intelligent player with good football acumen, in part because of the tutelage from his father growing up, Jeffcoat should be able to learn the nuances of the outside linebacker position quickly if necessary. The spinner package used against Texas Tech to showcase Jeffcoat's ability to get to the passer coming from different angles is something that scouts for teams that run a 3-4 defense should take note of on film.
The motor for Jeffcoat was generally a strength during his career, though there were some times in 2013 when he would notably jog in pursuit instead of hitting top speed in an attempt to run down plays. He also had some instances against Iowa State when his pass rushes took him too far outside his lane and it allowed quarterback Sam Richardson to repeatedly burn the Horns with his feet.
Against the run, Jeffcoat was a terror in opposing backfields, as he has the lateral quickness to slide down the line of scrimmage to make plays when he was left unblocked on the back side and he was strong enough with his hands to hit and separate from opposing offensive linemen to create stops.
If there's one major red flag with Jeffcoat, it's his overall lack of strength that at times caused him to get washed out against the run and put up only 18 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. There's little doubt that the two pectoral injuries in 2011 and 2012 that limited his offseason work hurt him in that regard.
In the lower body, Jeffcoat is quite thin as well -- he doesn't have a great base of power from his legs that could hurt him at the point of attack at the next level.
There's a lot of work in the weight room in Jeffcoat's future if he wants to maximize his ability in the NFL.
The other problem is that despite working with his father and a defensive ends coach in Oscar Giles who has produced a great deal of NFL talent during the time he was at Texas, Jeffcoat doesn't have the array of pass-rushing moves that one would expect from a player with his background and production -- he'll have to work hard in the NFL to develop at least one and ideally two or more go-to moves he can use to beat opposing offensive tackles.
So there are some notable holes for Jeffcoat in his game that are limiting factors, but his testing numbers prove that he is quite a good athlete and when he was healthy, he managed to put up some numbers that are impressive in the context of Texas football history. With an ideal mental makeup that includes no issues of any kind, Jeffcoat's intelligence and physical attributes should allow him to have a long and potentially productive NFL career despite some of his weaknesses.