Eagles Draft profile: Getting to know the wideout you’re all sleeping on

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“I bring passion and competitiveness to the field because I want to the best player I can be. Competition brings out the best in you and I love that”Van Jefferson to PhillySportsNetwork

Vanchii Lashawn Jefferson has football in his blood.

Before he was a four-star recruit out of Tennessee, before he started at Ole Miss in his freshman season and led AJ Brown and DK Metcalf in receptions, and way before he committed to the NFL draft, he was growing up watching his father, Shawn Jefferson, catch passes for 13 years in the NFL. Shawn is now the assistant head coach and WR coach with the New York Jets.

The time has now come for Van to follow his father’s footsteps in the NFL. We talked to the man himself, broke down the tape, and made sense of the numbers:

Crunching the numbers:

At 6’1″, 200 LBs, Van has decent size to go along with a top of the class route-running ability.

He didn’t participate in the NFL Combine, as the doctors found a Jones fracture in his foot (mostly a stress fracture of a metatarsal bone) during medical checks, and had surgery following the combine. Reports are that he is recovering well and is back to full health around the NFL draft.

“I was clocking in the 4.4s during my training sessions for the combine. It’s unfortunate i didn’t get to participate but it’s all a part of god’s plans”

Van Jefferson to PSN on missing the combine

His production at Florida has been criticized a ton, and mostly is the first thing scouts mention when talking about Van’s downsides. At Ole Miss, he was battling with AJ Brown and DK Metcalf in 2016 and 2017, and outproduced both with 91 catches for about 1000 yards and 4 TDs during those years.

After transferring to Florida, he produced 503 and 657 yards on 35 and 49 catches in 2018 and 2019, adding 6 touchdowns in each year. Those numbers led the team – LED THE TEAM in both years. Talk about a passing offense and QB where the production of WRs came to die.

My conclusion on these numbers: Don’t worry too much. Especially with Howie Roseman putting an emphasis on talent rather than production in this years’ draft.

He played a variety of positions. In 2017 he primarily played in the slot with 243 snaps to 156 outside, while he played 416 reps outside opposed to 149 in the slot in 2019.

“I have no preference of where to play. Whereever the team needs me to play, i’ll play”Van to PSN

Van had a 7% drop rate in college, which is around the average mark. Drops don’t stand out on film and usually displays good hands-catching ability and doesn’t rely on putting his body behind the ball.

His 50% win rate on contested catches is well above average, as are his 2.0 yards/route run.

“Watch the damn film”

“What stands out about my game is my route running. I feel like my ability to separate is a great trait that I have. I take pride in it and always continue to work on my craft to get better in that regard”

Van to PSN on what stands out about him

While I was writing up my list for players to watch as I do every year, my expectations for Van were low. Low production, boring passing offense.

Boy was I surprised – in a very positive way.

Strengths:

  • Elite route-running ability. Second only to Jerry Jeudy. Expanded and freakish route tree.
  • Drops weight well on breaks, can cut on the spot even when accelerating mid-route prior to cut.
  • Uses hands well to get physical with CBs on breaks.
  • Explosive at line of scrimmage against press coverage.
  • Quick feet, can force hip turns from CBs before committing to route, causing good separation consistently.
  • Has speed to run away from DBs and second burst to separate after breaks.

“My favorite route has to be the slant”

Van to PSN

Not surprised. He killed DBs in college and at the senior bowl with his ability to step outside and explode back in (see video above).

Weaknesses:

  • Not special with ball in his hands. Usually doesn’t break tackles.
  • Will be 24 in his first NFL season.
  • Could benefit from little more muscle to go with explosive routes to beat physical corners in NFL.
  • Production – but take that with a grain of salt (as mentioned earlier).

“I’ve never played in a snap in the NFL obviously so the biggest challenge is going to be adjusting to the speed of the game and learning the ins and outs”

Van to PSN on his biggest challenges ahead

Having a father in the NFL already coaching WRs, you can only imagine Van is getting a healthy amount of tips on how to cope with NFL offenses.

Final thoughts

“Yes, i’ve been in contact with the Philadelphia Eagles”Van Jefferson to PSN

Van is the definition of a sleeper in the draft. He is awfully similar to arguably the best WR in the draft in Jerry Jeudy. Why? The one trait that really skyrockets a guy like Jerry Jeudy into the first round: unmatched route running.

I’m not saying they are the same player. But they are both 6’1″ and only 7 lbs separate them. They both run in the 4.4’s and have similar elite traits. Van has a 7% drop rate, Jeudy has one of 8.3 %. Both won on 50 % of contested catches. Both are SEC receivers.

Van Jefferson is a day 2 lock, who is suffering from lack of production because of a bad QB in a bad passing offense, and his age is working against him. His upside is huge, and it wouldn’t shock me if he becomes a very good WR within his first two years in the league.

Pro comparison: Jeremy Maclin

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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