Jeffery missed 11 games the last two years, mostly due to nagging lower-extremity injuries, and he tacked on a four-game suspension last year for good measure. When active, Jeffery has been a star, averaging more than 8.5 YPT two years running, despite playing with the erratic Jay Cutler and his even worse backups. Jeffery will ply his wares in Philadelphia this season, after signing a one-year, $14 million deal. At 6-3, 218 and with a massive wingspan, Jeffery is an excellent red-zone target, but his 4.48 speed also makes him a threat down the field. Quarterback Carson Wentz had an up-and-down rookie season, but in Year 2, he's likely to be at least as good as the recent incarnation of Jay Cutler, and there's a chance he'll be quite a bit better. The Eagles suddenly are deep at the pass-catching positions -- joining Jeffery there is veteran Torrey Smith, incumbent wideout Nelson Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz. But none bring to the table Jeffery's freakish combination of size, speed and catch radius, and the Eagles wouldn't have shelled out that much money without intending to use him. At press time, Jeffery was completely healthy, but be mindful of his extensive injury risk and the difficulty free agent receivers often have in their first seasons with a new team.
Jeffery was good when 100 percent healthy, but that was rarely the case last year. With Brandon Marshall gone, Jeffery managed 8.6 YPT on 94 targets in nine games, some of which he left early. And he still topped 78 yards in seven of them and 100 four times. If you prorate Jeffery's stats over a 16-game season, he would have had 167 targets, 96 catches and 1,435 yards. Jeffery scored only four touchdowns, but given his size (6-3, 214) and freakish wingspan, that should not be a concern this season. Jeffery's 16 red-zone targets prorate to 28, just one shy of league-leaders Eric Decker and DeAndre Hopkins. Jeffery is not a burner, but his 4.48 40 time is unusually fast for someone his size. Jeffery should have more competition for targets this year, as last years first-round pick Kevin White — an equally big, but faster, version of Jeffery — should be healthy to start the year. But the Bears lack depth beyond those two, and lost reliable tight end Martellus Bennett in the offseason. While Jay Cutler is merely an average quarterback, he is plenty good enough to generate production for his top targets.
The entire Bears offense took a hit last year, but Jeffery remained a reliable source of production, particularly in the season's second half when Brandon Marshall missed significant time with an ankle injury. In fact, Jeffery had a streak of six consecutive weeks with at least one touchdown, adding 70-plus yards in all but one of those games. With Brandon Marshall now in New York, that setup could be the norm in 2015, though the Bears did use the No. 7 overall pick on another big, explosive target in Kevin White. At 6-3, 213, with 4.48 speed, Jeffery is another of the league's prototypical No. 1 specimens, and in Year 3 and at age 25 is entering his NFL prime. The risk is an unsettled passing environment with quarterback Jay Cutler hanging onto his job by a thread, and new coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase taking over for the departed Marc Trestman. While Gase and Fox presided over Peyton Manning's historic 2013 season, replicating a proportional improvement from Cutler should be a taller task. With Cutler at the helm for nearly all last year, Jeffery's per-play efficiency was a modest 7.8 YPT, 21st among the league's 41 100-target wideouts, and he had only three catches of at least 40 yards. Jeffery was seventh in red-zone targets (22), however, and third in targets inside the 10 with 16. Removing Marshall's 17 red-zone looks from the equation, Jeffery looks like a good bet for another double-digit touchdown season.
Year 2 is when receivers typically break out, and Jeffery’s 2013 was a case in point. After a quiet rookie season – 24 catches in 10 games – and despite playing opposite target-hog Brandon Marshall, Jeffery emerged as one of the league’s elite downfield weapons, averaging 9.5 YPT (6th) and 16.0 YPC (7th), catching six passes for 40 or more yards and 19 passes of 20-plus. At 6-3, 216 and with 4.48 speed Jeffery is another of the league’s prototype size/speed specimens, and he employed his physique and large hands to dramatic effect at times, out-leaping smaller defenders and catching jump-balls in traffic. Jeffery also saw his share of red-zone and goal-line work, with 19 targets in the former and 11 in the latter. While he did much of his damage with since departed Josh McCown under center, he had 200-yard and 100-yard performances with Jay Cutler and finished the season with three straight games of 70-plus yards after Cutler returned from an ankle injury. Moreover, Bears coach and offensive guru Marc Trestman should ensure there’s plenty to go around even with Marshall taking his usual cut.
Hand and knee injuries held Jeffery to just 10 games as a rookie, but the limited work he did was promising – he averaged a passable 7.6 YPT and 15.3 YPC on his 48 targets. At 6-3, 215, Jeffery has ideal size for red-zone work, good ball skills, reliable hands and above-average athletic ability. He's not especially fast, but he doesn't need a lot of separation to make plays over smaller defenders. Jeffery should get a chance to start this season – new head coach Marc Trestman said as much – and in any event see a significant uptick in targets. Keep in mind, however, Jay Cutler has locked in on target-hog Brandon Marshall going back to their days in Denver together, and third wideout Earl Bennett is also a Cutler favorite from Vanderbilt.
At 6-3, 216, the 45th overall pick in this year’s draft could be involved in the Bears offense right away. Chicago GM Phil Emery raved about Jeffery’s size, hands and toughness, and he specifically cited his red-zone ability given his ball skills and ability to make plays in traffic. Jeffery’s not particularly fast, and the Bears envision him operating out of the slot. That means he’d have to beat out the more polished Earl Bennett, a Jay Cutler favorite dating back to their days at Vanderbilt. It could happen eventually, but our bet is on Bennett in the near term. That said, if Jeffery were to win the job, his red-zone skills give him added upside.