Why LA Rams WR Van Jefferson can lead team in receiving yards
By Bret Stuter
With the 57th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, the LA Rams selected wide receiver, Van Jefferson, from the University of Florida. It was an exciting day for Jefferson and the LA Rams fans. The team had converted the very pick obtained in trading away wide receiver Brandin Cooks to obtain an exciting young receiver who, by many accounts, had the potential to become a star in the NFL in his rookie season.
And then he was redshirted for almost the entire 2020 season.
Of course, any rookie playing behind the likes of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods would struggle to get the ball thrown his way. But in 2020, even Josh Reynolds felt the heat and suddenly became a go-to guy in the LA Rams offense. That limited the second-round rookie to 256 total offensive snaps. Jefferson was targeted just 31 times over the entire season. He caught 19 of those passes for 220 yards and one touchdown.
All of this would add up to a fairly dim outlook for 2021, if not for a sudden burst in the NFL playoffs. With Cooper Kupp out against the Green Bay Packers, Jefferson suddenly became quite busy, catching six of seven passes thrown his way for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Los Angeles Rams
Suddenly, the Rams have a new quarterback, Matthew Stafford. Stafford has his very own unique style of extending plays, escaping pressure, and reading his progressions. While Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods were quite familiar with former quarterback Jared Goff’s styler, Jefferson does not share that history. Of the three receivers returning from 2020, Jefferson is truly a blank slate.
But he is a proven receiver. He starred against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he scored on a seven-yard touchdown pass. He showed up big in both games against the Arizona Cardinals, putting up eight of 13 for 77 yards in must-win games. And in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, he put up six of seven for 46 yards and a touchdown.
This receiver needs targets, and that is the only part of the equation that was missing through the entire 2020 NFL season. Now with the Rams parting ways with tight end Gerald Everett, running back Malcolm Brown, and wide receiver Josh Reynolds, the Rams will need to redirect those 176 passes in 2021. If Jefferson claims half of those targets, he could certainly be in the running for the top receiver on the team.
To do so, he’ll need to catch upwards of 67 percent of his passes, average better than 12 yards per reception, and be targetted over 100 times this season. You know that both Woods and Kupp will get their share of passes thrown their way. And then there is the impact of a wave of new sets of outstretched arms crying for the football to be thrown their way.
Jefferson has the right skill set to make an impact. If he pulls it all together early in 2021, he could become a favored target of Stafford. Don’t forget, this is an entirely new offense this year. If he shows up big in September and stays healthy, he could have an incredible season this year.