NFL Draft

2020 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Florida WR Van Jefferson

From now until the 2020 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#12/Van Jefferson/WR/Florida/6’1”, 197 Lbs

The Good:

  • Gets in and out of cuts quickly with limited wasted movement
  • Sinks hips and explodes directionally; great short-area burst
  • Wide catch radius with strong hands
  • Quick, lite feet; footwork is very advanced for this point of his career
  • Developed, nuanced route tree; always has a wrinkle in his game to get open
  • Absolute technician for the position
  • Varied releases off the line of scrimmage to take away strike zone for DBs
  • Willing blocker that is aggressive in initial punch

The Bad:

  • Not much of a contested catch guy; won’t make a ton of plays on 50/50 balls
  • Slender, spindly frame that is pretty maxed out in terms of mass
  • Limited athlete; won’t blow anyone away with speed and overall athleticism
  • Has a hitch in his release that needs cleaned up at the next level to negate opportunities for press coverage from DBs
  • Balance issues pop up on film; top of stem can give him some trouble, slips quite a bit

Bio:

  • Participated in the 2020 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
  • Redshirt Senior who transferred to Florida from Ole Miss
  • Finished college career with 175 catches for 2,159 yards and 16 touchdowns
  • Son of 13-year NFL veteran Shawn Jefferson, who was a wide receiver and has coached in the NFL as a wide receivers coach for the Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins and currently the New York Jets

Tape Breakdown:

If you’re looking for an absolute technician at wide receiver that runs a full route tree, is great at getting in and out of his cuts with ease and explosion, and simply knows how to work himself open, look no further than Florida’s Van Jefferson.

Jefferson has a leg up on the competition thanks to having a father that had a 13-year career in the NFL as a wide receiver and is currently the New York Jets’ wide receivers coach.

Having a father that was not only a long-time NFL pro at the position, but also a pro coach has helped Jefferson develop into a terrific route runner. He’s a nuanced guy that varies his releases and his timing into and out of breaks, throwing defensive backs off rhythm.

In 2019, Jefferson found himself matched up with LSU star cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., who as a freshman might already be one of the top 5-10 defenders in college football.

Jefferson cooked him throughout the game.

In the red zone Jefferson showed off his route running chops, selling the outside release with great footwork and the shoulder shimmy, forcing Stingley Jr. to open his hips to the boundary. Once Jefferson see this it’s over for the freshman corner. Jefferson changes direction with such speed and explosion on tape. It’s really impressive.

When I talk about varying his releases so as to throw changeups to defensive backs, these next two clips are what I’m talking about.

In the first clip, Jefferson brings his feet square right after the snap, giving himself the option of going inside or outside on the defensive back, making it that much harder for the defensive back to cover.

Then you see the quick, chopping feet and then the one long stride to get going vertically to the outside. He makes a nice back shoulder catch at the end too.

In the second clip, again matched up with Stingley Jr., Jefferson hits him with the an inverted toe tap. If you can slow it down, watch how he crossed his back leg over his front leg, allowing him to jump off the line and switch up where he’s going on Stingley. It’s never advised as a receiver to cross your legs like this near the line of scrimmage, but if you’re quick and efficient at it, it’s a nice wrinkle to add to your releases.

He won’t separate a ton vertically, but he’s really good at make plays on balls thrown to his back shoulder.

Jefferson has flashed some YAC ability during his time in college too.

First off, his footwork here to release horizontally is so smooth. Seriously, if you have the time to dial up tape of Jefferson, do it just to watch his feet.

Once he releases horizontally, he’s able to plant and get up to top speed in a hurry in the open field. He will probably run a 4.5ish 40 at the combine. That should be good enough to get picked in the middle rounds.

As a blocker, Jefferson is definitely willing, but he doesn’t have the strength to overpower defenders consistently.

I’ll take this effort and initial punch all day long from a receiver in one-on-one assignments against defenders.

Final thoughts on Jefferson: He’s not going to wow anyone with his athleticism, but he knows how to do one thing really, really well, and that’s get open. That seems pretty darn important for a wide receiver.

I think he can thrive in the NFL as an X or slot receiver where he can put his route running chops to the test. He’s sure-handed, a willing blocker and has some juice after the catch.

Projection: Early Day 3

Games Watched: Georgia (2018), Tennessee (2018), Auburn (2019), Missouri (2019), LSU (2019), Virginia (2019)

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