ESPN analyst Mel Kiper calls South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery one of the most difficult athletes to analyze among those available for the 2012 NFL draft.

“He presents a very difficult evaluation for me,” Kiper said Wednesday during a teleconference on the topic of the three-day draft that begins April 26. “It is very difficult for me to project how he will fit in on the next level.”

Jeffery, a St. Matthews native who played at Calhoun County High School, was a consensus projection as a high first-round selection as he developed into USC’s all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdowns. Concerns began to surface after Jeffery announced he would forego his senior season at USC and then began preparation for the draft.

The biggest concern may be the 6-foot-4 Jeffery’s weight. After drawing some criticism from analysts while playing at about 230 pounds and less effectively during the 2011 season — he went from 88 receptions for 1,517 yards in 2010 to 49 for 762 last season — Jeffery checked in at 216 pounds at the NFL Combine in late February and then at 213 for USC’s Pro Timing Day in late March.

But rather than allay concerns, Jeffery’s weight loss created new ones, Kiper said.

“The biggest problem with Jeffery is you don’t know what his body type is going to be,” Kiper said. “You always want a player to be the same weight and the same range of speed to show the kind of game day speed that he tests out at a certain weight.

“The weight Alshon Jeffery tested at is not the weight (at which) he played. He didn’t play at 212. He was at 225, 230. What is he going to play at? What is his best playing weight going to be? Could he be strong enough at a lower weight? Is he going to be that power forward at a lower weight? If he gets his weight up, is he going to (be able to) separate (from defensive backs)? Is he going to be able to get open? That’s the question with Alshon Jeffery.”

Kiper also believes Jeffery will pay a price for USC’s sometimes inconsistent passing attack in 2011.

“He did not have a quarterback who could get him the ball on a regular basis,” Kiper said. “He went through (Stephen) Garcia, (Connor) Shaw and all that. The bottom line is Jeffery is still going to go in the second round, I believe, and he is a very intriguing prospect. I was high on him, then I dropped him down. At the end of the day, with the way his weight changed, it is going to push him into the second.

“But I think he is a guy who is going to be an interesting case study to see what happens to a player you didn’t have the assurance this was going to be his body type at the next level.”

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