A record 13 wide receivers were selected during the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. Florida Gators WR Van Jefferson was in that group as the No. 57 overall pick by the Los Angeles Rams. That was much sooner than his 116th over/under draft position odds. Jefferson gains bragging rights over his father Shawn, who was taken at No. 240 by the Houston Oilers in 1991. Will Jefferson be a factor in 2020 fantasy football leagues or just a draft-and-stash selection?
Meet The Rams’ Newest Weapon: Van Jefferson
Vanchii Lashawn (Van) Jefferson Jr. is a Tennessee talent who excelled at Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, TN. NCAA scouts took notice after Jefferson posted 1,251 yards and 14 touchdowns during his junior season with the Raptors. Rising to a four-star recruit, Jefferson hauled in 1,233 receiving yards and 13 scores as a senior. After initially committing to Georgia in 2014, Jefferson changed course and enrolled at the University of Mississippi in 2015.
Redshirted during his first year at Ole Miss, Jefferson caught 49 passes for 543 yards and 3 touchdowns during his freshman season. Amidst team turmoil, which included pending NCAA sanctions, Jefferson had 42 receptions for 456 yards and one score as sophomore. Once Ole Miss was ruled postseason ineligible (2017-18), Jefferson transferred to Florida for his junior and senior seasons. Due to the Ole Miss sanctions, Jefferson was able to start immediately for the Gators.
He stepped into a good situation in Florida, as the Gators were rather light at the wide receiver position. Jefferson posted 503 receiving yards (6 TD) as a junior and helped Florida defeat Michigan 41-15 in the 2018 Peach Bowl. He added another 657 yards (6 TD) during his senior year. That includes 129 receiving yards during the Gators 36-28 win over Virginia in the 2019 Orange Bowl. Jefferson sat out the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine due to a foot injury.
How Does Jefferson Fit With Los Angeles?
After a stellar 2018 season that included a 13-3 record and a run to Super Bowl 53, Los Angeles finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs last year. The Rams will look different on offense as RB Todd Gurley (Atlanta) and WR Brandin Cooks (Houston) have both moved on. Los Angeles didn’t have a first-round pick and used pick No. 52 in the second round to draft RB Cam Akers from Florida State. While those selections fill voids, both players are raw prospects.
Jefferson will compete against incumbent receivers Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds for playing time. Also, head coach Sean McVay has signalled the Rams intend to use two tight end formations often this season. Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett are both emerging talents, so that will further limit Jefferson’s playing time as a rookie. Jefferson defended punt returns as a gunner for the Gators and will likely play that role with the Rams as well.
How Does Jefferson Project in Fantasy Football?
Barring injuries, it is difficult to envision Jefferson having much of a fantasy impact during his first season with Los Angeles. His initial goal will be making it tough for the coaching staff to decide between him and Josh Reynolds as the Rams’ WR3 during training camp. McVay expressed confidence in Reynolds when Los Angeles traded Cooks, so he has a leg up on Jefferson.
Back when Reynolds played 16 games as a rookie, he had 11 catches for 104 yards and one touchdown. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Jefferson posted similar numbers during his rookie season.
Beyond that, Kupp is in the final year of his rookie deal and Woods has two years left on his current contract. If one of them walks as a free agent, Jefferson would see an expanded role during his sophomore year. L.A. used the draft pick they acquired from Houston in the Cooks trade to select Jefferson. As such, they must see promise in the former Gator as a WR prospect they can develop.
Bottom Line: Jefferson will be selected early as a draft and stash prospect in Dynasty League rookie drafts (maybe as high as a mid-to-late second round pick). His value in 2020 season-long leagues will be moderate as his wide receiver average draft position is currently 71st overall at FullTime Fantasy Sports. Jefferson also checks in at No. 190 amongst all players on offense, which projects to a 16th round selection. Overall, Jefferson has a skill set that translates to WR2 fantasy numbers once he is a full-time starter.
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