The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Some believe he should have stayed in Texas.
The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson with their second pick in the third-round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Jefferson will bring versatility and coverage abilities to the Bengals defense that has been killed by tight ends and slot receivers for too long. It has recently come out that the Texas College Advisory Committee told Jefferson he should return to Texas instead of entering the NFL early.
The College Advisory Committee has been advising players that are not projected to go in the first couple rounds in the draft to return for their senior season. While Jefferson could have possibly benefited from returning to Texas for another year and getting more development, he will also be given more time in the NFL to develop being a third-round pick. It all depends on how you look at it.
Jefferson thought differently and elected to enter the 2018 draft. He told Max Olson of the Athletic that he wasn’t sold on the idea of returning. He said that he threw the papers away and didn’t like the feedback that he had gotten. It worked out for Jefferson as he was drafted on day two of the draft.
"“I threw the papers away. It’s not really good feedback. If a guy wants to come out early, they have to make a decision on their own. Really, if you’re not like a top-10 guy coming out early, it’s just up in the air from there. You just don’t know. Anything can happen.”"
That’s not to say that Jefferson couldn’t have been drafted higher in 2019 if he decided to return to Texas for his senior season. Jefferson had little time under new head coach Tom Herman as it was his second season in charge last year. It was also defensive coordinator Todd Orlando’s first season with the Longhorns.
It’s possible that returning to Texas in 2018 would have given the coaches more time to develop Jefferson into a more well-rounded player going into the draft next year. Orlando is a rising coordinator in the Big 12 and could have given Jefferson more coaching to develop skills that would have gotten him into the first round possibly.
We will never know whether returning for one more season would have made Jefferson a better NFL player. There are good reasons for him to have returned and developed more before the draft so he could hear his name called in the first round if he had another excellent season for the Longhorns. It also could be that Jefferson has just an average year there and falls even further down the boards.
Jefferson chose to take the risky path and enter for the draft after his junior season. He will start out as a special teams player and positional player on defense his rookie season. Given that he was a third-round pick, he will have more time to develop before a coach decides to move on from him. I think if Cincinnati utilizes him to his strengths and develops him a little more he could turn into a three-down linebacker.