As much as I liked the Cam Akers pick just a few picks before, the Los Angeles Rams took a reach on a potential elite receiver in Van Jefferson.
Jefferson was the country’s 11th-best receiver coming out of high school, and though he played four seasons in the SEC (two with Ole Miss), culminating his career with the Florida Gators, he failed to truly break out as one of the best receivers from his class during his time.
His final career advanced statistics go as follows:
- Targets: 261
- Receptions: 174
- Catch Rate: 66.7%
- Yards: 2,156
- Yds/Catch: 12.4
- Yards After the Catch: 783
- YAC/Catch: 4.5
- TDs: 16
- Receiving First-Downs: 55
- Drops: 13
- Broken Tackles: 17
Those numbers look impressive for a receiver with two years of experience in a high-powered offense, but those are from four years worth of experience.
Jefferson will also be 24 years old when the 2020 season begins, making him a bit long in the tooth for a rookie.
He’s 6’1, 200 pounds and does have a ton of versatility in terms of ability to line up across the field, as well as a family lineage in the fact that his dad Shawn Jefferson was a 13-year veteran.
But we’re not here for his background, we’re here for his advanced statistical breakdown.
Jefferson had four drops a season ago (on 53 catchable passes) and two of them happened on throws over the middle, deemed open and good throws. He struggled with those over-the-middle routes at times during his four-year career and also wasn’t quite the deep threat that you’d expect from a guy with his athleticism.
There were some ball-tracking issues and he had just five receptions on throws 20 or more yards downfield, and just 17 total receptions on all throws at least 10 yards downfield last year. Sure, chalk a few of those up to bad quarterback play during his career, but arguably the best quarterback of his career was Kyle Trask in the 2019 season, and those aforementioned numbers are from the 2019 season alone.
Look, the potential is there, but at this stage of his career Jefferson has never eclipsed 700 receiving yards nor 275 yards after the catch in a season.
You’d have to hope those numbers aren’t translatable at the NFL level while also hoping the fact that he’s got the best quarterback of his career in Jared Goff means only good things.
Bad news: Most of those aforementioned advanced statistics have been proven to translate to NFL success and Jefferson doesn’t quite meet those standards.
Here’s hoping he’s a pro’s pro and can shake the analytical ‘step behind’ he’s facing as he enters the league.