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Top Receivers in NFL Draft: Justin Jefferson

LSU’s Justin Jefferson, who dominated from the slot, checks in at No. 4 in our ranking of the top receivers in the NFL Draft.
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LSU’s Justin Jefferson, who dominated from the slot, checks in at No. 4 in our ranking of the top receivers in the NFL Draft.

Justin Jefferson finally has family bragging rights.

The native of St. Rose, La., is the third of the Jefferson brothers to play football at LSU, joining older brothers Jordan and Rickey. All three started during their career. Jordan played quarterback for LSU from 2008 through 2011 and Rickey played in the secondary from 2013 through 2016.

“It was crazy in the Jefferson household,” Justin Jefferson said at the Scouting Combine. “All of us were in the same house at one point, so we definitely had those fights and those battles every single day in the summertime when our parents weren’t there. That helped me today for being a tougher person.”

Jordan Jefferson spent a few days with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after going undrafted in 2012. Rickey Jefferson went undrafted in 2017 and tore an ACL during training camp in 2018. Justin Jefferson, on the other hand, is expected to be a first-round pick.

Justin Jefferson at the Scouting Combine

“They still try to bully me, they still try to pick on me, but I’ve gotten a little bigger since I was smaller, so they can’t pick on me as much,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson went from zero catches as a freshman to 54 as a sophomore to 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. In his final three games, Jefferson was dominant. In the SEC Championship Game against Georgia, he caught seven passes for 115 yards and one touchdown. In the national semifinals, he had a day for the ages with 14 receptions for 227 yards and four touchdowns against Oklahoma. In the national championship, he caught nine balls for 106 yards against Clemson.

Jefferson did most of his work from the slot, where he lined up 81 percent of the time and caught 109 passes for 1,518 yards. He had seven drops, a rate of 5.8 percent. According to Sports Info Solutions, he caught 92 percent of catchable passes – fouth-best in the draft class.

Jefferson was just a three-star recruit, even though he had the genetics and his own skill. As a 9-year-old, he finished third in the National Punt, Pass and Kick championship.

“It’s actually exciting, having that dream as a young boy, making it to this point in life, just seeing that I have a bright future at the next level. It’s crazy and it’s amazing,” he said.

What we like

With size (6-foot-1 1/4), athleticism (4.43 in the 40), length (33-inch arms) and route-running skills, Jefferson is a complete package at receiver. “Just my ability to get in and out of routes, I’m very versatile. I can do slot and outside. Just being able to play different positions on the field.” He forced a whopping 25 missed tackles, more than Jerry Jeudy (15) and just behind CeeDee Lamb (26), according to Pro Football Focus. Moreover, he had a contested-catch rate of 92.3 percent, according to Pro Football Focus. No other receiver did better than 66.7 percent, and 50 percent is above average.

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What we don’t like

Because Jefferson was LSU’s slot receiver, he barely saw any press coverage. With a lack of strength, that could lead to a rough adjustment to the NFL if he’s asked to play outside as a rookie. Moreover, with Joe Burrow at quarterback and Biletnikoff winner Ja’Marr Chase as the other receiver, he’ll never have it easier.

BILL'S RECEIVER PREVIEW

No. 1: Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy

No. 2: Alabama’s Henry Ruggs

No. 3: Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb

No. 4: LSU’s Justin Jefferson

No. 5: Baylor’s Denzel Mims

No. 6: Clemson’s Tee Higgins

No. 7: Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk

No. 8: Colorado’s Laviska Shenault

No. 9: USC’s Michael Pittman

No. 10: Texas’ Devin Duvernay

No. 11: Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool

No. 12: TCU’s Jalen Reagor

SI.com: The New Receiver U.