Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio examines the game of Florida wide receiver and 2020 NFL Draft prospect Van Jefferson, a masterful route runner for his age and experience, but a pass-catcher with work to do.
If Van Jefferson’s receiving skills were equated to levels of education, he’d have a master’s degree in route running, but a sophomore earning his bachelor’s as a pass-catcher. Jefferson has to tell succinct but compelling stories as a route runner.
He has refined his skills to the point that he can turn a defender around without ever crossing the line of scrimmage. Everything about his eyes, shoulders, hips, and knees are aligned to sell a story that baits the opponent.
It’s Jefferson’s routes that paint the picture of him becoming a slot receiver with the potential production of Julian Edelman in his prime. It’s Jefferson’s hands and feet at the catch point that will either unlock that ceiling or chain his game to a floor of unreliability that limits him to that of a contributing talent who never becomes the focal point of an offense.
Jefferson uses the incorrect position of his hands to frame the ball based on the trajectory of the target and leaves his feet unnecessary. Both issues give tight coverage more time to contest targets and increase the odds of Jefferson dropping passes that should have been quick and efficient receptions.
These two correctable flaws in Jefferson’s game also delay his opportunities to turn upfield and gain yards after the catch with optimal efficiency. A quick receiver, Jefferson lacks elite athletic ability as a runner, so every efficiency he can gain with catching and transitioning to open grass is vital for maximizing gains.
These shouldn’t be crippling flaws but if they’re ingrained into Jefferson’s game, they may slow his acclimation enough to limit his upside early in his career. It’s these issues that are often the difference in the NFL between contributor and starter or starter and star.
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