Bears draft WR Alshon Jeffery

Updated: April 28, 2012, 2:07 AM ET
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears gave up a fifth-round pick on Friday to swap spots in the second round with the St. Louis Rams to move up five spots (No. 45 overall) to draft South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery.

[+] EnlargeAlshon Jeffery
Mark Zerof/US PresswireAlshon Jeffery led South Carolina with 49 receptions for 762 yards and eight touchdowns last season.

Then the club turned its attention right back to defense by using the 79th overall pick to acquire Oregon State safety Brandon Hardin. The selection marked the eighth consecutive year the Bears used a pick on a safety.

"Very excited to have Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Hardin as members of the Chicago Bears," general manager Phil Emery said. "Both [are] big, dynamic athletes."

A recent pre-draft visitor at Halas Hall, as reported by ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson last week, Jeffery (6-foot-3, 216 pounds) gives quarterback Jay Cutler another big target on the outside opposite recently-acquired receiver Brandon Marshall.

Jeffery was projected as a late-first to early second-round pick, and looks forward to learning some of the finer points of the game from Marshall. Hardin also toured the club's facilities recently during a pre-draft visit.

"I went on a visit and their receivers coach (Darryl Drake) loved me, the head coach, GM, we all had a good talk," Jeffery said. "I'm excited about the opportunity. I look forward to being on the team with all the guys. Brandon Marshall, he's a great receiver. Maybe I can take some of the stuff off him. He's a great guy. I've heard a lot about him. I've watched him. He works hard. He does all the right things."

Hardin, meanwhile, joins the Bears with a fairly extensive injury history. A cornerback at Oregon State, Hardin played through a fractured left hand and left wrist in 2008, and missed all of last season because of a broken shoulder.

Emery said one of the main reasons for Hardin's visit was "to make sure he is medically sound."

"We feel that [Hardin] could push it up into the starter level over time, but he has to earn that," Emery said. "He's medically sound. He has a clean medical grade."

Although Hardin (6-3, 216) played cornerback at Oregon State, the plan initially is to play him at strong safety. Emery raved the third-round pick "will strike you," adding that "he's not afraid of contact."

"I have no worries about this guy [handling the physicality of moving from college corner to NFL safety in]," Emery said.

Jeffery caught 183 passes for 3,042 yards and 23 touchdowns in 33 starts, before renouncing his senior year of eligibility. Jeffery is one of three players in SEC history to surpass 3,000 yards receiving, and only former Georgia star Terrance Edwards -- who racked up 3,093 yards from 1999 through 2002 -- has gained more receiving yardage than Chicago's second-round pick.

After producing a sophomore season in which he caught 88 passes for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns, Jeffery watched his numbers dip as South Carolina worked through issues at quarterback.

"Our coaches and all of us as a team, we just went with the best situation to win us the game," Jeffery said. "We thought if teams were gonna double and triple team, and give us the run, we thought we would run the ball more. That would win the most games. We won 11 games. We broke the school record. So that worked out for us."

[+] EnlargeBrandon Hardin
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireBrandon Hardin's career at Oregon State was cut short before the 2011 season when he broke a shoulder, requiring season-ending surgery.

What didn't apparently was Jeffery's ability to control his weight, which reportedly fluctuated dramatically throughout his college career. At the NFL combine in March, Jeffery caught widespread criticism for opting out of all testing and participating only in the weigh in.

Jeffery reportedly admitted in the past to playing his junior season in the 230-pound range, but reported to the combine weighing 216 pounds. The receiver atoned for not participating at the combine with a strong pro day performance in which he weighed 213 pounds, and ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, according to Emery's watch, in addition to registering a vertical jump of 34 inches and bench pressing 225 pounds 18 times.

Jeffery said he currently weighs 212 pounds, but would be comfortable playing at anywhere between 215 and 220 pounds.

In addition to criticism from scouts about an inability to create separation downfield from defenders, and unpolished route-running ability, Jeffery continues to deal with questions about his work ethic, which stem in part from his fluctuations in weight.

"I would say I've got a great work ethic," Jeffery said. "When I get to Chicago, hopefully you can see firsthand. The teams or whoever, they can talk about my work ethic and see for themselves. I'll just let it be what it's gonna be."

Emery said Jeffery ranked among the club's top three highest-graded receivers, adding he was also the highest-rated player remaining on the draft board.

"This guy does not lack athletic confidence. He knows he's good. This is not a lazy guy," Emery said. "When he gets the ball in his hands, he's looking to score. We do see a dynamic guy who will come in at Z. The price was right for us. We gave up a fifth-round pick."

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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