LA Rams OC Heaps Praise for Former Florida Gators WR Van Jefferson
It was a big surprise when former Florida Gators wide receiver Van Jefferson heard his name called in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams.
A big surprise to everyone - including Jefferson - except the Rams, it appears.
The Rams, in need of pass-catching help following a trade sending Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans, used the 57th pick provided by Houston in return for Cooks to acquire Jefferson's services. Known for his route-running prowess and high football IQ, Jefferson is an ideal fit for the Rams' heavy use of 11-personnel who could step into a big role early in his career.
Just ask his new offensive coordinator, former NFL quarterback Kevin O'Connell.
"There's no secret to our love as a coaching staff for him," O'Connell spoke of Jefferson this past week. "His ability to run routes and understand the next-level element of running routes and separating at the top, I think he'll fit right in from a personality and a skillset standpoint with the guys we have in that room."
The son of Shawn Jefferson, an NFL wide receiver-turned-NFL wide receivers coach, Jefferson has long been at work at polishing his routes, footwork, and timing within an offense. That led to Jefferson emerging as Florida's most productive wide receiver in the two-year Dan Mullen era of Florida football to date, as Jefferson tallied 84 receptions for 1,160 yards and 12 touchdowns from 2018-19.
His production at Florida led to a Senior Bowl invitation, in which Jefferson caught the attention of NFL scouts and coaches throughout the entire week of practice in January. Although he didn't participate in drills at the 2020 NFL Combine after suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot, Jefferson had done enough to give the Rams the confidence to select him earlier than anyone anticipated him to go.
Now, with confidence from the coaching staff that he should step into the offense with no issue, Jefferson should be expected to contribute early on and replace Cooks' role.
Jefferson joins two veterans in the Rams' receiver room in Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, both proven contributors that Jefferson is at odds to split targets with relatively evenly, much like how Florida split targets between him and multiple other receivers. In 2019, the Gators saw eight pass-catchers record at least 20 receptions, so sharing the load isn't a foreign concept to Jefferson.
"The great thing about rooms like that," O'Connell continued, "where there's depth but there's also accountability and guys pushing each other, [is] they're all going to raise their games continually to another level."