Justin Jefferson Player Profile
Hand: 9 1/8
Over the past twenty years, the LSU Tiger wide receivers haven’t been the only ones “callin’ Baton Rouge”. Astoundingly, since 2000 there has been a total of 18 wide receivers to have heard their name called during the NFL Draft. Hot Boudin that’s a lot! During my next player profile, we’ll analyze the pros, cons, expectations, and landing spots of wide receiver number 19, Justin Jefferson.
Backstory: Let’s start with a little backstory. In 2018, if I showed you clips of Jefferson you would no doubt say he is a great receiver. Quality route runner, physical with his jump balls, and generally a feisty blocker when he wants to be. Now fast forward to 2019 and knock knock who’s there? Joe Brady. After spending two season with the offensive mastermind Sean Payton, Brady was hired to bring life into the LSU offense and the result was been tremendous. Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Thaddeus Moss...shoot even Terrace Marshall. All these players have had their respective draft stocks impacted in just one season. Which should make you ask; What happened in 2019 to make Jefferson a first round caliber player. The answer is simple! Jefferson was moved from an outside receiver to the teams primary slot receiver. With this move Jefferson saw his receiving totals go from this (54/875/6) to this (111/1,540/18). Crazy numbers right? But listen carefully when I say that NO ONE truly knows how good Justin Jefferson is or can be besides Justin Jefferson himself. This is a classic example of a wide receiver that was being held back in one scheme then breaking free the next year with a new coordinator. Happens all the time in the NFL, which is why football analysis is ever changing. There are plenty of game film clips across the Internet of Justin Jefferson and my advice to you, should you be a fan of his, is to watch some of the 2018 games and see the difference. For now, we carry on to the positives of Jefferson.
Pros: Thanks for reading that backstory, here’s where it gets good! Right off the bat, since Jefferson has played and shown success on both the outside and in the slot I’m going to label this man a VERSATILE wide receiver. Three skills that I’d like to specifically highlight are his contested catch ball skills, polished route running, and his strong hands. Throughout his career, Jefferson has an impressive 92.3% catch rate on contested plays. He’ll control his body in a way where the defender has no chance to make a play, even occasionally in the redzone, which is something that shocked me. The route running from Jefferson is honestly some of my favorite because he is able to force defensive backs into bad coverage with his foot work. Additionally, Jefferson understands when a play is broken up and will masterfully improvise his own route to get open aka extended the play. Lastly, have you ever seen Jefferson drop a pass? Me either. This trait pairs nicely with the first because since his handwork is elite, he is able to aggressively attack those contested balls. When knowing contact is bound to happen Jefferson will still make the catch because of his aggression. One last note is that even when run blocking Jefferson shows the same “want to” attitude, something I think will earn him a starting job in the NFL.
Cons: From what I see there aren’t truly any glaring weaknesses in Jefferson’s game. Not to say that he doesn’t need to rework his game to fit the NFL style/speed. The biggest knock to me is that lack of breakaway speed which stops him from separating downfield. This will limit his YAC ability as there are plenty of instances on film where Jefferson has caught tracked down by a defender. The aggressive corners shut him down at the line of scrimmage and will keep themselves in his back pocket all game, just waiting for the ball to be thrown. Needs to figure out a way in the NFL to beat man coverage more often. Yes in college Jefferson was able to make those contested catches, but in the NFL I could see those becoming a dime a dozen against players like Tre’Davious White or Marlon Humphrey. Lastly, NFL teams will truly have to figure out his role. Does he have the ability to play outside and be more explosive out of his breaks? Or will he be relegated to the slot his entire career which will ultimately limit his production and long lasting impact in the NFL.
Comparison/Expectations: I cannot stress this enough, DO NOT mistake Jefferson for your typical slot wide receiver. Since Jefferson can do a little bit of everything with specific elite traits, I think the comparison to Robert Woods fits best. Woods wasn’t a player that made a jaw dropping impact immediately in the league, but for the past three seasons in the McVay system he’s excelled. My hope is that a team such as the Packers or Vikings draft him to play opposite their respective stud wide receiver. This will be a big adjustment for Jefferson, but given his draft value versus upside I think teams will be more willing to work with him. Look for Jefferson to be drafted as one of the top five wide receivers in this class, which given the depth of the overall 2020 class will land him in the late first or early second round.