Three NFL Team Fits for Gators WR Van Jefferson
As we continue to work towards the NFL Draft, the only notable "sporting" event on the horizon amidst the novel coronavirus global pandemic, we're taking a look at ideal teal fits for each Florida Gators' prospect that is expected to be selected.
Next up: Wide receiver Van Jefferson.
Jefferson, 23, is considered one of the top route-runners in what's being considered a historically deep wide receiver class. At 6-1, 200 lbs., Jefferson possesses an NFL-ready frame and given his skill-set as a possession receiver with twitchy feet, he would serve as a young quarterback's best friend - preferably in a West Coast-style of offense.
Though, without the production and athleticism that receivers at the top of the draft have in their profile, Jefferson hasn't been considered the cream of the crop. In two seasons at Florida, Jefferson led the Gators' receiving corps in receptions and yards, but 84 receptions for 1160 yards and 12 touchdowns isn't necessarily eye-popping.
To make matters a bit worse, a Jones fracture was discovered in Jefferson's right foot during the NFL Combine - ruling him out of athletic testing. Jefferson is expected to make a full recovery from the injury and surgery, though with the coronavirus halting teams from hosting prospects for visits, teams can't check in on his recovery with their own doctors.
Could this cause Jefferson to fall in the draft? That has yet to be seen, but given these factors, it's certainly possible. After a great performance at the 2020 Senior Bowl, Jefferson ascended into day two talks, but this uncertainty could lead to an unfortunate slip into day three.
With that being said, which teams could look to add Jefferson to their passing game arsenal in this range? Limiting this exercise to the third-to-fourth round range, let's take a look at three fits.
New York Jets
Third round: 79th overall; Fourth round: 120th overall
Jefferson has often credited his father, Shawn - a former NFL wide receiver - for his development as a route runner and in the mental aspect of the game.
Shawn Jefferson now coaches the New York Jets' wide receiver position under head coach Adam Gase, and after the loss of Robby Anderson in free agency while the position was a team need to begin with, Jefferson badly needs more talent in the room.
Which makes this fit incredibly obvious, but alas.
Jets quarterback Sam Darnold hasn't had it easy to start his career. Two head coaches in as many seasons, very little offensive talent surrounding him or protecting him, and not to mention he missed three games in 2019 with mononucleosis.
Darnold needs a quarterbacks-best-friend-type of receiver who can get open on quick passes in order to open up the vertical passing game, which suits his powerful arm. Who better to pair him with than someone that the team receivers coach has molded since he was a child, who matches the description?
Third round: 103rd overall (compensatory); Fourth round: 127th, 145th (comp.), and 146th (comp.) overall
Some Philadephia fans are calling for general manager Howie Roseman's head for not providing quarterback Carson Wentz with weapons at wide receiver via free agency. Now, those fans are ignoring the revamping of the Eagles' defense that Roseman has completed over the course, but that doesn't take away from the previously stated fact.
Carson Wentz badly needs help at receiver.
Late last season, Philadelphia's injury bug had the team down to two healthy receivers in practice prior to Week 16. Perhaps the most inconsistent receiver of the group over the past several years, Nelson Agholor, left the team in free agency to sign with the Las Vegas Raiders.
On paper, Jefferson would likely enter the season as a No. 4 receiver behind the declining Alshon Jeffrey, a slowly-developing boundary threat JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and DeSean Jackson, who only saw action in three games last year while dealing with a core injury.
Greg Ward looked solid towards the end of the season, but the former Eagle-turned-AAF-receiver-turned-Eagle again has seven career games under his belt after going undrafted in 2017. That isn't enough.
Given Jefferson's football IQ and route-running process, he could legitimately finish the year ahead of all of these receivers on the depth chart in Philadelphia, should Philly pull the trigger and barring another rookie doing the same.
Third round: 77th, 83rd, and 95th overall; Fourth round: 118th overall
With the third-round picks, including one near the end of the round from San Francisco, Denver could be a team that prevents a drop into day three for Jefferson.
The Broncos are going all-in on rising second-year quarterback Drew Lock, who - as Jefferson has experienced first-hand - gave Florida fits in the past.
Adding Jefferson to an offense led by Lock - where he'd be surrounded by deep-threat receiver Courtland Sutton, emerging tight end Noah Fant, and a multi-faceted run game led by Philip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon - would give the Broncos one of the more intriguing young offenses in the NFL.
Each weapon at Lock's disposal would provide a different skill-set, and much like the other quarterbacks noted, Lock needs a guy he can trust to get open on quick passes. Jefferson is one of those guys in this class.