Tony Jefferson is a player we can root for and hope that he has a special season, but in reality, it’s just not that likely.
Even though Jefferson is coming out of a major program like Oklahoma, Jefferson isn’t likely to do much this year. NFL.com had him rated as an “eventual starter,” and it projected him to be drafted in the second or third round. However, a combination of ineffective play at the end of the season and a 4.75 40-yard dash at the NFL combine changed that projection.
Jefferson was projected by some to be drafted as high as the third round, but Jefferson went undrafted and signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent. He hopes to make the team, and with the losses of Kerry Rhodes and former captain Adrian Wilson, that’s certainly possible.
Unfortunately for Jefferson, the Cardinals already have four players at safety. Arizona re-signed veteran Rashad Johnson to take over for Wilson and signed free agent safety Yeremiah Bell to a one-year deal to replace Rhodes. With Tyrann Mathieu drafted to play nickel corner and safety and the expectation for special teams speedster Justin Bethel to take the next step forward in his progression, playing time at safety may be limited.
If Jefferson is unable to find playing time at the safety positions, he will have to find his knack on special teams. He has a reputation as a hard hitter, but needs to wrap up better at times. The hope is Jefferson can resemble another undrafted safety the Cardinals signed from the Big 12 conference back in 1995, Kwame Lassiter.
Lassiter had the same reputation as a hard hitter, and while he started off on special teams, he ended up working hard and becoming a starting safety for several years for the Cardinals.
Hopefully for the Cardinals, Jefferson can bring energy and physicality to a team that is going through a transition phase on defense. Unfortunately, while we all root for the underdog, the only “special” part of Jefferson’s season will be the unit of special teams he is assigned to.