In this report, I’ll try to uncover why the best route runner in the 2020 NFL Draft isn’t be talked about nearly enough. Florida WR Van Jefferson should be talked about way more than he is.
The 2020 NFL Draft has loads of talent at the wide receiver position which may cause some prospects to get overlooked. This happens every year as a player that was drafted outside of the first round goes on to have a big rookie year. In 2019 that player was Ohio State receiver Terry McLaurin who was drafted in the third round by Washington.
This year the talent at wide receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft is so deep that they’ll likely be multiple picks on day two that will have great rookie seasons. However, there is an argument to be made that Van Jefferson could have one of the best rookie seasons out of any receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft class.
Jefferson is a son of a coach which is why he is so fundamentally sound as a route runner. His father, Shawn Jefferson, played thirteen years with San Diego, New England, Atlanta and his last year with Detroit. Shawn is now one of the best wide receiver coaches in the entire league. He’s currently with the New York Jets, who happen to have a need at wide receiver.
Van started out his career as a redshirt for the Ole Miss Rebels. He played in 12 games as a redshirt freshman bringing in 49 receptions for 543 yards and three touchdowns. His Sophomore season was his last at Ole Miss, but he left with solid numbers totaling 90 receptions and 999 yards with 4 touchdowns in his career at Ole Miss.
Jefferson transferred to Florida and was eligible to play right away. In his first season as a Gator, he caught 35 balls for 503 yards and six touchdowns. As a fifth-year senior, Jefferson really stepped up catching 49 balls for 657 yards (career-high) and six touchdowns.
Career stats: 175 Receptions, 2,159 Yards, 12.3 AVG, 16 Touchdowns (45 games)
Games watched: 2019 vs LSU, 2018 vs LSU, 2019 vs Kentucky, 2019 vs Missouri
Jefferson is the cleanest route runner I have ever seen at the collegiate level. He doesn’t rush out off of the snap, as he takes a deliberate approach. His footwork is impeccable in and out of his routes. Jefferson does a great job of working his way back to the football. He’s also really good at attacking the football.
His hands are very strong and reliable. Jefferson also has a fairly big catch radius which allows the quarterback a little leeway in the accuracy of throws. If it’s in the vicinity of Jefferson he’ll likely snag it. You can really tell he’s a coach’s son just by watching how fluid his routes are. Everything Jefferson does is technically sound.
Jefferson probably would be talked about a lot more if he showed some hint of athletic ability. This really hurts him after the catch where he’s not much of a threat. His speed is very limited, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he ran somewhere in the low to mid 4.5’s at the scouting combine. That would really get the scouts talking.
Many people will look to his age, as he’ll be 24-years-old at the start of his first season. Most of the receivers that will be going in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft will only be 21 entering their rookie season. The cause for concern is that Jefferson has already reached his ceiling. Jefferson also needs to put some weight on his slim frame.
Van Jefferson is definitely limited as a receiver due to his lack of athletic ability, but he’s an elite route runner. While everyone is crazed by mind-blowing speed and jumping ability I was always more fond of the technician. Route running is a craft that not many can master, but Jefferson is very close.
I wanted to watch his tape against two of the top corners in the game that’s why I watched his LSU game. He went up against one of the best corners in the country freshman Derek Stingley Jr. and he was carving him up at times. He would then go over to the other side and have some fun against projected first-round pick Kristian Fulton.
Wrapping this up Van Jefferson will likely hear his name called sometime on day two. I can’t really pinpoint one player comparison, but Keenan Allen is probably the closest as both rely on their route running to create separation.