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Do Rams need another WR in 2021 and what’s next for Van Jefferson?

Is the 2020 second round pick due for a 2021 breakout?

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Rams have the 57th overall pick in the draft this year, which is the same spot in which they drafted 24-year-old Van Jefferson out of Florida in 2020. The pick was acquired from the Houston Texans in the Brandin Cooks deal, but Jefferson never pushed his way into Sean McVay’s rotation as anything close to a “replacement” for Cooks and now the Rams are back wondering if they have a dire need at wide receiver again.

In my experience, many fans do not like it when you evaluate a player based on his rookie season, but especially when that rookie season is underwhelming. I understand why broaching “disappointment” can be a touchy subject and I also am a firm believer that you should discard first years as anything resembling a projection of that player’s future.

However, I also believe that the greats are almost always great. And that often includes their rookie season but Jefferson is nowhere to be found on the lists of outstanding (Justin Jefferson), great (CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins, Brandon Aiyuk, Chase Claypool, Jerry Jeudy), or even just pretty good (Michael Pittman, Henry Ruggs, Laviska Shenault, Darnell Mooney, Gabe Davis, Denel Mims) receivers from the 2020 class.

Jefferson was active for all 16 games, but finished 25th in receiving yards among rookies and was 18th among all rookie wideouts. All 24 players ranked ahead of him are roughly 2-3 years younger than Jefferson.

Despite walking into what should have been one of the best opportunities for a rookie wide receiver in the league, knowing that a void had been left by Cooks, Jefferson had 19 catches for 220 yards and one touchdown, plus one fumble. During one nine-game stretch in the middle of the season, Jefferson was targeted only eight times and he was often getting single digit snaps on offense.

Though Josh Reynolds had a mini-breakout season at 52 catches for 618 yards, the Rams ranked 22nd in scoring and 26th in touchdown passes, so I wouldn’t excuse Jefferson’s absence on the field based on there not being a need or an opportunity.

There was a massive need for another offensive star and an opportunity for any receiver to step in and play better than not only Reynolds, but also during those moments when Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods failed to connect often enough with Goff.

However, is it the Rams who are holding Jefferson back? We do know that Sean McVay probably waited too long to install Cam Akers as a full-time piece of his offense and that was a player who had opportunities on a team in need that wasn’t getting the snaps he deserved.

Whether Jefferson is due for better in the future remains to be seen, but the Rams know that Reynolds is a free agent and that Kupp has now missed four of the team’s last five playoff games because of injury. The depth chart for next season reads as Woods, Kupp, Jefferson, Nsimba Webster and Trishton Jackson, and we know that will be subject to change.

Was Van Jefferson at fault for his poor numbers in a sea of rookie wideout stars?

Is Les Snead at fault for picking Jefferson in a year when he could have easily traded up for Chase Claypool or waited for Darnell Mooney or Gabe Davis?

Is Sean McVay at fault for not knowing what he had on his bench?

Or is Jefferson’s underwhelming rookie showing a matter of circumstances that will work itself out naturally and eventually give us the next Josh Reynolds rather than the next Brandin Cooks?

Poll

How big of a need is WR this year?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    4 (the most)
    (96 votes)
  • 32%
    3
    (209 votes)
  • 32%
    2
    (212 votes)
  • 19%
    1
    (127 votes)
644 votes total Vote Now