And one returning wide receiver is looking like someone who is ready to break out for an air attack that produced two 90-catch wideouts last season: Van Jefferson.
The former Florida Gator and Ole Miss Rebel Jefferson is entering his sophomore NFL campaign after getting selected 57th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. The son of 13-year NFL veteran wide receiver Shawn, the younger Jefferson had a rather quiet NFL debut: Catching only 19 passes for 220 yards and one touchdown with zero starts. Jefferson wound up finishing below two tight ends in the reception category.
However, his head coach Sean McVay and one wide receiver expert in Ventura County who has worked out alongside members of the Rams, and who has seen Jefferson’s work ethic first hand, both said Jefferson’s role is likely to increase.
Not only does Jefferson no longer need to hear anymore rumors of Julio Jones coming on board, but the free agent departure of Josh Reynolds to the Tennessee Titans now leaves an opening for who will be the third aerial option among the wideouts. And the former Southeastern Conference wide receiver is practicing like he wants more targets coming his way in 2021.
McVay Lauds Jefferson’s Receiving Skills During OTA Sessions
The 35-year-old McVay, who is now entering his fifth season as head coach of the Rams, said of Jefferson ‘I just think he’s got special receiver traits,’ to reporters during a Zoom video conference on June 4. He added that Jefferson’s ability to gain separation between himself and the cover cornerback during June practices plus his catching consistency has caught the head coach’s attention.
“He’s got a great ability to work the edges and separate. He’s got good, aggressive hands. You can see he’s really put the work in. He’s come back and established himself as a legitimate dude, a guy that we’re counting on for big things and I think the future is so bright for this guy,” McVay said.
Before entering the league, Jefferson was plugged in at all three receiver spots for both Ole Miss and Florida, the latter university representing his graduate transfer spot. Jefferson went from a wideout averaging between 10.9 to 11.1 yards per catch with the Rebels to ascending between 13.4 and 14.4 yards a catch in the Gators’ offense. He showed his high concentration in the red zone on seven of the 13 touchdowns shown in this highlight film released pre-draft:
‘You will, Positively, Hear His Name Sometime to Come’
Evan Yabu puts on the gloves and cleats and workouts with members of the Rams when he’s not coaching at nearby Thousand Oaks High School. He’s ran routes and caught passes from Rams backup quarterback John Wolford during the offseason. The graduate of NCAA Division II Lane College Yabu told Heavy he met Jefferson through those offseason workout sessions.
On the day Yabu met Jefferson, he saw firsthand how Jefferson ran and attacked his routes while developing chemistry with Wolford. Yabu was immediately sold on Jefferson.
“I watched him run about 10 to 12 routes and man, was he crisp,” Yabu said.
Like McVay, Yabu said he believes Jefferson is due for a breakout 2021 off of his improving practice habits, the habits Yabu has seen himself when Jefferson isn’t inside the Rams practice facility.
“From watching Van up close and personal, that guy is serious,” Yabu said. “You will, positively, hear his name sometime to come. When you see him in person, you’re going to be like ‘Whoa!'”