NORMAN, Okla. -- Tony Jefferson would rather not talk about the upcoming NFL draft -- and whether he’ll be part of it.
But one thing is clear: Oklahoma’s junior free safety is doing his homework as he prepares to make the impending decision.
Jefferson admitted Tuesday that he would file paperwork with the NFL draft advisory committee, a common step for college underclassmen to determine a draft projection. Cornerback Aaron Colvin said he, too, will file paperwork, and receiver Kenny Stills and fullback Trey Millard are expected to do the same.
Jefferson, however, also revealed that he has studied what other safeties he’d be up against, what he’d have to do to get his degree (he still has a semester left) if he came out, and the contract differences between first-, second- and third-round picks under the NFL’s relatively new collective bargaining agreement.
“You don’t want to make a decision not thinking about money,” Jefferson said. “There’s a big money drop from the first to the second, and the second to the third. I’ve done my investigation on that part.”
At this point, it’s still murky where Jefferson would go in the draft, which is why he’s turned in his tape to the advisory committee. Even though the OU defense has been up and down, Jefferson has been its most consistent performer. The All-Big 12 selection leads the Sooners with 113 tackles despite playing with a bum ankle for much of the season.
ESPN Scouts Inc. ranks Jefferson as the fifth-best eligible safety at the moment, and 49th prospect overall. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Jefferson as the second-ranked junior safety behind Florida’s Matt Elam, but notes that either player has a shot of sneaking into the first round.
“I don’t think anyone that’s a first-round pick, they can pass that up,” Jefferson said. “That would be hard to pass up. Second round, I don’t know.”
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, however, indicated that he thought Jefferson could improve his stock by returning for his senior season. But Stoops also said he wouldn’t get in Jefferson’s way if he wanted to go pro.
“Players, they’ve got to decide what’s best for them for whatever reason,” said Stoops, who will also lose seniors Javon Harris and Demontre Hurst from his secondary after the Cotton Bowl. “I always think you gain growth and your stock goes up if you stay in school, but that’s my feeling. You can’t protect yourself against injury, that’s the only unknown I think you don’t like to factor in when you tell a player he can become a better player by staying in school.
“But Tony knows what he has to work on to become a better player regardless of where it’s at. Those are things Tony and I will discuss whatever he decides to do.”
Jefferson said he would consult Stoops and others, but that the decision will ultimately be his.
“It’s gonna fall into my hands, what I feel like,” Jefferson said. “Of course, I’ll ask. But it’s going to depend on me.
“I don’t think any one person is going to sway me either way.”