Photo credit: therams.com
You ever just have a good feeling that something will work out?
It was easy to feel that way about former Florida Gators wide receiver Van Jefferson's future in the NFL. While some analysts ducked him pre-draft for not being the most athletically gifted receiver in the class - rightfully so - his route-running polish and football IQ displayed within the Gators offense was off the charts.
The son of an NFL wide receiver-turned-WRs coach, Jefferson has learned the intricacies of the position since his youth. His poise and knowledge of the position led him to be selected well above his projection in the 2020 NFL Draft: Second round, 57th pick, by the Los Angeles Rams.
Since, Jefferson has already begun to take off within the Rams' offense in training camp, despite plenty of talent surrounding him.
"Football just makes sense to him," Rams head coach Sean McVay said of Jefferson, according to therams.com.
The Rams traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks to clear cap room this offseason, receiving the 57th pick from the Texans in exchange for his services. Creating a hole at wide receiver with that move, as Cooks tallied 122 receptions for 1,787 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons with the Rams, L.A. used that pick to replace his production on a much more affordable, rookie contract.
"We want to be able to have guys that are versatile that can play all over the formation," said McVay. "And I think that's one of the things we liked so much about Van, is he can certainly win isolations outside, he can work inside on option routes where he understands how to work leverages and recognize coverage contours... And you can see, kind of like what we've talked about ever since we drafted him, he's got a knack for the game."
Outside or at slot receiver, Jefferson found himself in plenty of receiver combos at Florida given the team's depth over the past two seasons at the position. Four UF receivers found NFL homes this offseason following their graduation, paired with Florida's returning talents at the position in Trevon Grimes, Jacob Copeland, and Kadarius Toney, along with tight end Kyle Pitts, targets were split up a good bit.
Over two seasons at Florida, following a transfer from Ole Miss, Jefferson caught 84 passes for 1,160 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Jefferson won't deal with a true seven-deep wide receiver depth chart in L.A., but targets will still be spread out. He is surrounded by several talented receivers in Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Josh Reynolds, along with productive tight ends Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee.
"I'm always confident in myself whether that's any rotation I'm going with," Jefferson told Los Angeles media on Sunday. "I just feel like I just go out there and just play my game. Mistakes are going to happen, so just as long as you correct them and come back from them, you'll be fine."
Jefferson's begun to earn the trust of his new quarterback, Jared Goff, as he's quickly acclimated to the speed of the NFL. Goff set a career-high of 626 passing attempts last year, while the Rams ranked No. 8 in the NFL in pass-play percentage at 61.99%, only further amplifying Jefferson's importance in Cooks' previous role.
He appears ready to take it on.
"He's done a great job," Goff said of Jefferson. He's really picking things up fast... I think his ability to be able to pick up the offense mentally and understand the little intricacies of it has been really impressive, and I'm excited to play with him."