Top Receivers in NFL Draft: Van Jefferson

Bill Huber

Florida’s Van Jefferson, whose father knows a little something about playing receiver, checks in at No. 15 in our ranking of the top receivers in the NFL Draft.

Van Jefferson is one of the more polished receivers in this year’s NFL Draft, which should come as no surprise. His father, Shawn Jefferson, caught 470 passes over 13 NFL seasons and has been an NFL assistant coach since 2006.

“A lot of times, he had to overcome being my son,” Shawn Jefferson, who is entering Year 2 as the Jets’ receivers coach, told the Athletic. “Van is very driven. He’s extremely driven. I think what kind of fuels him sometimes is that they’ll mention him as the son of former NFL player and coach Shawn Jefferson. Van wants to dispel all of that, which I love — I absolutely love it.”

In 2016 and 2017 at Mississippi, Jefferson caught 91 passes for 999 yards and four touchdowns. He left for Florida after the NCAA slapped Ole Miss with sanctions. In two seasons with the Gators, he caught 84 passes for 1,160 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a senior, he caught 49 passes for 657 yards and six touchdowns – all three numbers tying or setting career highs. He tied for fifth in the draft class by hauling in 91 percent of catchable passes.

“I think the biggest lesson my dad ever taught me was to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,” Jefferson told USA Today recently. “He’s been preaching that to me my entire life. Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Be prepared at all times because you never know when your moment will come. When that moment comes, you’ve got to be ready to take advantage. I’ve always done that. I pride myself off of that. I’m always prepared and ready for the moment. No stage is too big. I’m going to take advantage of any and every opportunity that comes my way.”

Jefferson measured 6-foot-1 1/2 and 200 pounds at the Scouting Combine but didn’t test because his medical exam turned up a foot injury that required surgery. At the Senior Bowl, according to executive director Jim Nagy, Jefferson reached 21.05 mph. That was the fastest of any player at the all-star game, beating Texas receiver Devin Duvernay (20.90), Baylor receiver Denzel Mims (20.26) and Memphis running back/wide receiver Antonio Gibson (20.15). For perspective, Duvernay and Gibson ran their 40s in 4.39 and Mims in 4.43.

What we like

With excellent speed and a lifetime of coaching, Jefferson could be an immediate contributor. In this coronavirus world, he might have a built-in advantage over his peers. “I’m going to make a huge impact. I feel like I’m going to go out there and make the biggest impact of any receiver in this class. I feel like I can come in and play right away. My overall understanding of the game will allow me to make an immediate impact. Of course, it’s going to take hard work and the trust of my teammates and coaching staff but I plan on earning that. I feel like I’m ready. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this. I’m ready to go.”

What we don’t like

Jefferson needs to get stronger, though as a fifth-year senior, that probably should have happened already. He gets knocked off his routes too often and offered almost nothing after the catch. He forced only three missed tackles; his rate of 16.33 catches per missed tackle being the worst of our top 32 receiver prospects.

Bill Huber’s Top Receivers

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

No. 13: Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones

No. 14: Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden

No. 15: Florida’s Van Jefferson

SI.com: The New Receiver U.

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