He plays for an offense that features three Pro Bowl talents. He’s yet to hit 1,000 yards in a season. Lastly, he was considered for the longest time no better than the fourth option in the Los Angeles Rams air attack.
Van Jefferson may be perceived by some to be an unknown or one lost in the Rams‘ shuffle. But that’s not the case for two analysts who have given him these titles: An “underrated” player and, in the case of Bleacher Report on the morning of Friday, July 15, the “best kept secret” on the Super Bowl 56 champs.
‘Slippery & Smooth’
Gary Davenport of B/R compiled his listings of every NFL team’s best kept secret heading into the 2022 season and gave the incoming third-year receiver that title.
Jefferson, the son of former NFL receiver and now NFL wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, has found a way to become relevant and a focus for the Rams’ offense given the litany of stars across the roster.
“When folks talk about the wide receiver corps for the Los Angeles Rams, the conversation usually starts with superstar Cooper Kupp. Then it moves to the newly acquired Allen Robinson II. Or even to the question of whether or not the team will bring back Odell Beckham Jr.,” Davenport explained. “That’s all well and good. But Justin Melo of The Draft Network thinks a bigger percentage of the conversation should center on third-year-pro Van Jefferson.”
Melo back in May 2022 described him with the following adjectives: Underrated, slippery and smooth.
“Jefferson is an underrated receiver that’s fully capable of producing a 1,000-yard campaign,” Melo wrote. “The Brentwood, Tennessee native is a slippery and smooth route runner that can effectively work the intermediate and deep areas. [Les] Snead and [Sean] McVay have routinely made splashes since taking charge of the Rams and may prefer to pair Kupp and Robinson with Beckham as they attempt to secure back-to-back Super Bowl victories. Much remains undecided, but Jefferson possesses every trait necessary to experience a successful campaign in 2022.”
Could Jefferson be in For Breakout 2022?
What we know about Jefferson now: He’s capable of putting himself at multiple spots on the stat sheet.
“Jefferson has already shown he can make a dent in the stat sheet—after making just 19 catches as a rookie, he posted a 50/802/6 stat line on 89 targets in 2021. Jefferson’s eight targets in Super Bowl LVI trailed only Kupp among Rams players,” Davenport wrote.
For an offense that featured the league’s leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns, plus one that also included the multiple Pro Bowler Beckham until his ACL tear in the Super Bowl, hauling in 50 catches and surpassing 800 receiving yards is an impressive feat considering which two wideouts received the most attention on the Rams.
And now, Jefferson has to settle for being a non No. 2 option once again with the arrival of Pro Bowl WR Allen Robinson. However, Davenport has reason to believe that Jefferson can still hit a new career mark with “A-Rob” on board.
“Given all the single coverage Jefferson’s going to see playing with Robinson and Kupp in 2022, it won’t take that big a bump in target share for that 1,000-yard season Melo mentioned to become a distinct possibility,” Davenport said.