The LA Rams have taken heat on the selection of Florida WR Van Jefferson in 2020 NFL Draft, but he holds 1K yard potential
The LA Rams used their second selection of the 2020 NFL Draft, and of round two, to select Florida WR Van Jefferson. He heard his name called as the 57th player selected from the draft. That is long before the LA Rams selected anyone from the defensive side of the ball. Likewise, it was a complete surprise to many who believed the Rams had more significant needs elsewhere.
Despite how we would have directed that Rams pick at 57, the team used all the analytical resources at their disposal to decide that Florida wide receiver was the right player for the team. Now, it’s our task to attempt to reverse-engineer that logic.
So what were the LA Rams looking for at the wide receiver position in the draft? Many decided that a critical skillset, perhaps the most critical skillset, sought by the Rams in the 2020 NFL Draft was that of pure speed. Much of that was concluded thanks to the trade of speedy WR Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans. But we asked the question months ago if stretching the field was truly the answer for the Rams even with Brandin Cooks on the roster. In several losses, the Rams passing offense attempted to open the game with long incompletions which did nothing to help the team.
Why not select a receiver like Woods or Kupp?
Perhaps the team examined the attributes of the two more successful receivers: Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods? If the team sought a wide receiver who combined the best of both Kupp and Woods, the team would definitely be drawn towards Van Jefferson. He is quite the talented collegiate athlete, who suffered a foot injury which dropped his ranking on several NFL Draft boards. But just as hoped for, the LA Rams took advantage on several occasions of quality players who fell to them in the 2020 NFL Draft
I found one of the most interesting articles about Jefferson’s potential on the LA Rams’ roster was authored by Ramblin Fans’ own Noah Schlaebitz. In his LA Rams 2020 NFL Draft rookie floor/ceiling: Van Jefferson article, he compared Jefferson to NFL players to project a floor and ceiling. The fascinating aspect of his article is his choice of how well Jefferson might play in the NFL. He compared Jefferson directly to another wide receiver many questioned upon his selection in the draft – Cooper Kupp.
But the final paragraph to that article is where a true golden nugget of information rested. The 2019 Senior Bowl standout receiver was wide receiver Terry McLaurin, a rookie who dominated with the Washington Redskins with 919 yards and seven touchdowns.
In 2020, the Senior bowl standout receiver was Van Jefferson. While that does not automatically guarantee similar results in the NFL, it does start a comparative track for the two. And coincidentally, the 2019 offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins is none other than Kevin O’Connell, the 2020 offensive coordinator for the LA Rams. That coincidence is far too striking to be sheer random chance.
While many believed that WR Denzel Mims was better suited for the LA Rams, he is a raw prospect who relies upon his 6-foot-3 height and blinding speed to succeed as a receiver. That translates into good games followed by easy drops for the early part of his NFL career. Mims boasted a very impressive 4.38-second 40-yard dash time.
Van Jefferson’s draft profile
Van Jefferson’s draft profile by Lance Zierlein cites a raw prospect who simply did not play with full effort. Instead, he counted on his natural size and speed to win the day. The draft profile by Lance Zierlein for Van Jefferson cited a lack of speed and a need to improve his run blocking ability.
Looking further, the Senior Bowl summary for 2020 by Dean Straka painted a different picture of Van Jefferson’s speed. In that article, he interviewed Senior Bowl Executive Jim Nagy, a former NFL Scout who had this to say about Jefferson:
"“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….Van is similar … Last year, Terry was our fastest guy in the game. This year it was Van Jefferson. .. 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).” – Jim Nagy"
The comparison to Terry McLaurin, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods is a very promising sign of Van Jefferson’s potential in the NFL. And while the term “steal of the draft” is used far too often, Van Jefferson could certainly be one of the most positive surprises on the team by this time next year. And when you see how he works on the field, you’ll become a believer too.
The greatest challenge facing Jefferson is synching him up with quarterback Jared Goff. If Goff and Jefferson establish a repoire quickly enough, then Jefferson truly has the potential to be a significant impact player on the Rams’ roster for 2020.