Not many fans expected the Rams to draft a wide receiver early on in this year’s NFL Draft, not with more pressing needs at both offensive and defensive lines. Yet when they saw Van Jefferson still on the board when they had their second pick, he was too good to pass on.
Jefferson was not a high profile athlete coming out of either Florida or Ole Miss where he played before, but the team saw something uniquely special in him. Back in May, General Manager Les Snead and some of the teams scouting department got together to discuss their draft picks. During their interview, James Gladstone, the Rams’ director of scouting strategy, compared Jefferson to a blend of two other wide receivers currently on the team.
“As you consider Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, and if they were standing side-by-side, and they were looking into a mirror, their reflection would be that of Van Jefferson.”
Rams’ radio host, J.B. Long, recently put out an abbreviated look at Jefferson specifically, and it sounds like the team may not have looked at him at all if not for Cooper Kupp.
Kupp was infamously slow (for a receiver) during the 40-yard dash at the combine, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a difference-maker in LA. Rather than focus on just the dash, the Rams took advantage of the new Zebra Technologies in 2017, which allowed advanced analysis of players and showed that Kupp actually recorded the fastest max speed during the Senior Bowl.
Judging from how Kupp’s career has played out to this point, the Rams made a smart move in their scouting decision, and they used the same test on Jefferson this year. Although he could not run the 40-yard dash at the combine, he pulled off a feat similar to Kupp’s three years prior.
Florida WR @VanJefferson12 couldn’t run the 40 at Combine (foot injury) but @ZebraTechnology had him as fastest player at the @seniorbowl with max speed of 21.05 mph, which is faster than Devin Duvernay (20.90/4.39), Denzel Mims (20.26/4.38), and Antonio Gibson (20.15/4.39). 🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/t7Y8nRmonn
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) April 4, 2020
Based on this analysis, the Rams potentially received the steal of the draft in Jefferson. And while there is still a long way to go before we can call him a staple of the offense, the LA brass clearly believes in his potential.
It should be an interesting battle for the 3rd receiver position this training camp, but we may be witnessing the rise of a star named Van Jefferson.
Check out some of his college highlights below and tell us what you think of the Rams’ newest receiver!