When Oklahoma Sooners junior Tony Jefferson came out for the 2013 NFL Draft, no one expected him to go in the first round, but a lot of people were predicting he could go on day two in either the second or third round. Yahoo even ran a profile on him in their pre-draft coverage. He was seen as a lesser version of Roy Williams, a first round pick who made it to multiple Pro Bowls. No one expected the draft to end and no one take Tony Jefferson.
“Nothing surprises me in the draft,” Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said on the university’s caravan tour. “I was disappointed, of course, I want all my guys to be drafted as high as they can be. But in the end, there’s always a lot of reasons why NFL teams do or don’t draft guys. Some of them are whether they play, how they test when they measure a guy.”
That is one thing that hurt Jefferson heading into the 2013 NFL Draft. Jefferson played most of his junior year injured, had a worse season than he enjoyed in his sophomore season, yet still led OU in tackles with 119. He then went into the NFL Combine still injured. This resulted in Jefferson, a safety expected to move quick, to run a 4.75 40-yard-dash. There was only one safety in the 2013 NFL Draft that ran slower – Notre Dame’s Zeke Motta. Even 300-pound offensive tackle Lane Johnson ran faster, posting a 4.65 40 time.
That is one of the reasons that Lane Johnson was a first round draft pick and Tony Jefferson never heard his name called.
The other reason is that there were a good 10 or 12 solid safeties coming out in the 2013 NFL Draft that could start from Day 1. That made the battle fierce because not every team needed to use one of their draft picks on a safety. Jefferson just found too much competition in a year where he came out early, and was too injured to impress anyone at the NFL Combine, and after 21 safeties heard their name called, Jefferson was left waiting.
Even though he was a solid, consistent player in the Big 12, the fact that there were so many safeties and he ran that sub-par 40 pushed him down the line to the point where he goes un-drafted,” said NFL expert Mel Kiper.
So, now Tony Jefferson gets a chance after signing with the Arizona Cardinals as an un-drafted free agent. Arizona has Adrian Wilson at strong safety right now, Jefferson’s main position, and as an un-drafted free agent, it is up to him to prove he deserves a contract, something that Stoops said “will be difficult.”
When asked if he believed that Jefferson would go un-drafted, Stoops said “to a degree. I thought he would be. I didn’t feel it would be in the first day because of information I have. I feel bad for him. I wish he was.”
It will be an uphill battle now for Tony Jefferson in the NFL, but if he proved anything at OU, it is that he is willing to work hard to achieve success on the field.