What’s a good benchmark for statistical success at the wide receiver position in the year 2022?
Many of us grew up in a land where 1,000 yards sounded so clean and difficult to achieve, so what else could there be? But with a heavier focus on the passing game and a 17th contest added to the schedule, we are past the time when 1,000 receiving yards is all that special.
In 2003, 14 players crossed over 1,000 yards.
In 2010, it was 17 players.
In 2020, it was 18 players.
But in the two seasons on either end of 2020, there were 29 players over 1,000 yards in 2019 and 26 such players in 2021.
When you have that many players putting up numbers in a season, it can only increase the odds for any one of them to become an afterthought in the near future. Consider such 1,000-yard examples from the last eight years such as Terrelle Pryor, John Brown, Kelvin Benjamin, Brian Hartline, Allen Hurns, Tyrell Williams, Harry Douglas, Kendall Wright, Jeremy Maclin, Robby Anderson, and tight ends Gary Barnidge and Delanie Walker.
Good players? Sure! Players you want on your team? Maybe!
That’s the question that teams and fans must face when they see that a player had “a lot of receiving yards” in an era where we aren’t really sure yet what is “a lot.”
And Van Jefferson was still a couple hundred yards shy of 1,000 during his second NFL season, which included 17 games and 89 targets from Matthew Stafford. Jefferson is the next player to check in on my list of the Top-20 Most Important Rams for the 2022 season, but amid so much talk about an OBJ reunion even following an Allen Robinson signing, will Jefferson move up or off the list in 2023?
#16 - WR Van Jefferson
The 57th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Jefferson’s 1,022 career yards ranks as the 11th-most from that class so far, and is about one-third the total of Justin Jefferson and one-half the total of CeeDee Lamb and Tee Higgins. He was the next receiver off the board after Chase Claypool, who currently has 121 catches for 1,733 yards in addition to being a bit of a rushing threat for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It is true that Jefferson has had to share the field with Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and OBJ, but it is also true that he didn’t adjust to the league as quickly as hoped for a 24-year-old rookie with an NFL receivers coach for a father. Jefferson caught 19 passes for 220 yards in 2020, then the Rams responded by drafting another second round receiver in 2021, then signing Odell Beckham during the season.
Jefferson has proven that he can come up with a big play, but we are still waiting for that breakout game.
The more attention he gets, the less productive Jefferson seems to be. When targeted more than six times last season, Van Jefferson only caught 19 passes for 272 yards, an average of 54 yards per game and a catch-rate of only 50-percent in those contests.
In the playoffs, Jefferson caught nine passes on 17 targets, gaining 102 yards and scoring zero times.
So even though Van Jefferson finished the season with 50 catches for 802 yards, we need to adjust expectations and raise the bar for him as he enters his third campaign. With Kupp and Robinson in the fold as Stafford’s top two targets, will Jefferson edge out Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, and anyone else as the third option? Will he do enough to make L.A. reconsider a reunion with OBJ? Or will Jefferson be playing for a different team in 2023, when he’ll already be 27?
That’s something that needs to be determined soon.
Who is more important to the 2022 Rams roster?
This poll is closed
C Brian Allen
ILB Ernest Jones
WR Van Jefferson
WR Tutu Atwell