LA Rams rookie receiver Van Jefferson didn’t participate in drills at the NFL Scouting Combine in February because of a broken bone in his foot, but if he had, perhaps Jefferson wouldn’t have been available to the Rams at pick 57. Could he have improved his draft stock a tick by a) not having a broken foot and b) running a 4.4?
As was reported several times through draft season, Jefferson was touted as the fastest guy at the Senior Bowl this year. Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy compared his speed to that of 2019 rookie sleeper Terry McLaurin:
“A guy that I think is the Terry McLaurin of this class is Van Jefferson from Florida.” Nagy said in a recent interview with Grant Paulson and Pete Medhurst on 106.7 The Fan in D.C. “Terry went 76th overall last year. If you had a redraft of last year’s draft, he would have been a first-round pick. Outside of some of the quarterback play on the team, he could have won rookie of the year. The guy had almost 1,000 yards with some spotty quarterback play.
“Van is similar ... Last year, Terry was our fastest guy in the game. This year it was Van Jefferson. Van’s dad coaches in the league, Sean Jefferson former NFL player, really good wide receivers coach. You watch (Van) on tape and he’s an awesome route runner. He always gets open. I just thought he was a really crafty player and I didn’t give him enough credit for having as much juice as he has. I saw him play live twice, but I didn’t feel that speed from the press box like I felt on the field in Mobile (at the Senior Bowl).”
This was backed up by Jefferson’s speed on the field, which was clocked by Zebra Technologies as the fastest of any player at the Senior Bowl: 21.05 MPH. Zebra Technologies clocked 2019 rookie sensation Deebo Samuel at 20.97 MPH the year before. They had McLaurin at 22.15 MPH.
Samuel ran a 4.48 at the combine at 215 pounds. Jefferson is 6’1, 200 pounds. Could he have run in the low-4.4s? McLaurin, at 209 pounds, ran a 4.35.
Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool ran a 4.42 at 238 pounds and went 49th to the Pittsburgh Steelers. LSU’s Justin Jefferson ran a 4.43 at 202 pounds. Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy ran a 4.45 at 193 pounds. TCU’s Jalen Reagor ran a 4.47 at 206 pounds.
Alabama’s Henry Ruggs was clocked with a game speed of 21.94 MPH. Reagor was next at 20.80 MPH. Baylor’s Denzel Mims was next at 20.69 MPH. So potentially Jefferson would have slotted in between Ruggs and Reagor. Who knows what he may have clocked at the combine if he was 100%.
Ruggs was the fastest player at the combine this year at 4.27, and a few years ago that title belonged to Brandin Cooks at 4.33. The Rams traded away Cooks this offseason and used the pick acquired on Jefferson. The idea that he can replace Cooks is rightfully dismissed as a bit of a lazy connection and that the two players are different, as well as the fact that Jefferson has yet to play even an NFL practice, but we can’t dismiss that the new guy has speed as an attribute.
And that he has quite a lot of it.