Rookie Spotlight: Justin Jefferson, Louisiana State University
Height: 6’1 1/4” (official)
Weight: 202 lbs (official)
Hands: 9 1/8”
40 yard dash: 4.43 (official)
NFL Comparison: Stevie Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Nelson Agholor
– wide catch radius
– elite ball skills
– strong hands
– great straight-line acceleration
– evasive runner
– 82nd percentile SPARQ athlete
– good production despite heavy competition for touches
– good route-runner, but somewhat-limited route tree
– might have trouble creating separation outside
– brings nothing in return game
– doesn’t necessary play as fast as he tested
– couuld be argued he wasn’t the alpha WR on his own college offense
– much more effective versus zone coverage than man
2019 Team Market Share Numbers
26% receiving yards
30% receiving TDs
Scouting Notes: For some players, the NFL Combine just validates what we already know about a great player, for others, it completely changes the way they are perceived by scouts and pundits alike. Justin Jefferson falls in the latter category after blowing everyone away with a 4.43 forty time, when most weren’t expecting him to run better than a 4.6 or so. Lack of speed, and perhaps a somewhat-limited route tree, was the only thing separating Jefferson from the top receivers in the draft, so he’s now in the conversation for first-round status with his performance – He also had a 37 1/2” vertical. Jefferson came from humble beginnings for most national reception leaders, as he was a 2-star recruit coming into LSU, where he started as basically a run-blocker and didn’t catch a single pass in his first season. Everything changed for Jefferson in 2018, when Joe Burrow became QB – and even moreso in 2019 with the arrival of passing game wunderkind Joe Brady who moved him into the slot. He became Burrow’s safety blanket, and an excellent one at that catching nearly 83% of catchable targets in 2019 per PFF. He became the force that really burst onto the scene in his final year at LSU as he began to refine the option routes he’d see out of the slot, rarely failing to create separation in an elite manner when given a two-way go versus nickel corners.
Jefferson has 33” arms on a 6’1” frame – and he plays even longer than that somehow – so he’s able to pull in almost everything that comes his way. He also has strong hands, so it’s difficult to get the ball from him once he’s got it in his clutches. Jefferson has good RAC ability too, as he’s slippery and powerful – All that run-blocking comes in handy. Running out of the slot primarily, Jefferson didn’t master a lot of routes, and that hurts him in comparison to other elite prospects, but he’s extremely coachable as we’ve seen. There are also questions about Jefferson’s ability to face the press on the outside which are probably well-founded, but he attests that he separated easily before he moved to the slot – He just didn’t have great QB play when he was out there. You can see in the chart below (via Pro Football Focus) that Jefferson was the most productive receiver in the nation on crosses, drags and in-routes, but on the other side of that coin, the sorts of routes out of the slot (remember Jefferson basically played exclusively in the slot for 2019) more often than not come with free releases off the line of scrimmage.
Fantasy Outlook: Jefferson’s Combine showing has taken him from a likely 2nd round ceiling to near-1st round expectation in the NFL draft. He’s a QB’s best friend, and in the right spot he is primed to do a lot of fantasy damage. He’s a ball hog with RAC ability and a style of play that can thrive in the red zone. I could see him becoming the de facto no.1 in Las Vegas with his skill set (although my dentist probably could as well for what it is worth). Questions about his separation ability outside versus the press coverage linger, but his speed is no longer an issue or even possible question mark. Also, who’s to say that the team who drafts Jefferson will even want to transition him to the outside? He can be taken as a “value” pick in dynasty behind the Lambs, Jeudys, and maybe even the Tee Higgins’ of the world, but he could end up eclipsing them all for fantasy purposes.
JUNIOR SEASON (2019)
Coming off his best game as a Tiger with 14 catches for 227 yards and four TDs in LSU’s 63-28 win over Oklahoma in the CFP National Semifinal … Set CFP Semifinal game records for receptions (14), receiving yards (227), receiving yards in a half (186), and receiving TDs (4) … Has caught 21 passes for 342 yards and five TDs in LSU’s last two games … Second team All-SEC selection from the AP … Has 102 receptions for 1,434 yards and 18 TDs … The 102 receptions are a school-record and the third-highest total in SEC history … His 18 TD receptions ties the SEC single-season mark along with teammate Ja’Marr Chase and Florida’s Reidel Anthony (1996) … Goes into Oklahoma game tied for No. 1 in the nation in TD receptions (18) and No. 3 in both receptions (102) and receiving yards (1,434) … Averaging 14.1 yards a catch and 102.4 yards per game … Caught at least five passes in 12 games and had at least one TD in 11 games … Had seven 100-yard games in 2019 and nine for his career … Teamed with quarterback Joe Burrow, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase to become the first team in college football history with a 5,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season … Led LSU with seven receptions for 115 yards and TD in SEC Championship Game … Is 10th player in school history with more than 2,000 career receiving yards … Surpassed 1,000 yards in the 2019 season at Ole Miss with a nine-catch, 112-yard and two touchdown performance …. It’s the ninth 1,000-yard receiving season in school history … Made seven receptions for 79 yards on eight targets at Alabama … Five of his seven receptions went for first down against the Crimson Tide … Caught seven passes for 60 yards against No. 9 Auburn … LSU’s leading receiver at Mississippi State with 89 yards and one touchdown on eight receptions … Made history as he caught Joe Burrow’s 29th touchdown pass on the season for the most LSU history on an 18-yard TD in the third quarter at Mississippi State … Totaled 123 yards and one touchdown on 10 receptions against Florida … Scored on a 7-yard pass from Joe Burrow against the Gators … Scored on consecutive drives with touchdowns of four and 39 yards out against Utah State … LSU’s leading receiver with 155 yards on nine receptions against Utah State … Tied the game at Vanderbilt with a 4-yd TD pass from Joe Burrow … Topped 100 yards with 125 yards on five receptions against Northwestern State … LSU’s leading receiver at Texas with a then-career high 163 yards on nine receptions and three touchdowns … Scored the game-clinching touchdown on third-and-sixteen with a 61-yard touchdown with 2:27 left in the game … A part of the first trio in school history, along with Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall, to finish with 100 receiving yards in a game … LSU’s leading receiver in the season opener against Georgia Southern with 87 yards on five receptions and a touchdown … After not catching a pass as a freshman, now rank No. 3 in LSU history in receiving TDs (24), No. 6 in receptions (156) and No. 8 in receiving yards (2,309) … Younger brother of two former LSU starters – quarterback Jordan Jefferson (2008-11) and defensive back Rickey Jefferson (2013-16) … Jordan started at quarterback in LSU’s 2012 BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans.
Quotable from the Combine
What’s this process been like?
It’s been amazing, honestly, just getting to be here and get this experience. A lot of people can’t say they’ve been here. I’m just honestly blessed.
Who’s the best player coming back to LSU next year that we’re not talking about right now but will be a year from now?
That’s a little difficult. We had a lot of different players that didn’t play that much last year that are coming up. I mean, LSU is still going to be phenomenal and dominant, I’m excited to see what they’re going to do.
This is a really stacked wide receiver class. What do you need to do to prove that you should go in the first round?
Just show the coaches that I’m capable of being the best receiver, just doing every drill 100 percent, getting on the board and showing them that I’m a smart receiver. Just being the best receiver on and off the field.
What separates you from others?
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.
Why do you like Joe Brady so much?
He came in with that spread offense. As a receiver, we love the spread offense. Plus having Joe Burrow throwing it to us, throwing it on the money every single throw, it was just a blessing to be in that offense. It showed in the one year that he came, we won the national championship.
What goes into the strategy of slow mo-ing into your routes sometimes?
Just having that timing down pat with Joe, just not having to deal with the tempo off the play, just letting Joe go through his reads and letting me have that backup read at the end of the play
A lot of those option routes in the slot, walk me through those types of plays
Just really seeing what defense they’re in. Joe did a great job of showing up the different defenses that they play against us. That comes along with watching film and just learning the tendencies of the defense.
What do you know about the Bills?
I know a lot, Tre’davious White, that’s one of my favorite corners in the NFL. He’s a tremendous guy … He’s definitely one of my close friends. He’s friends with my brother. I was talking to him at the Pro Bowl and just getting all the information that I need about the NFL
Question on track background
It helped me a lot actually, just being able to get that speed. I didn’t have a lot of speed in high school, just having that track background, it helped me a lot with my agility
What did you run?
I did the 4X4, which would be known as the grown man race. I did the long jump, the triple jump and I did the 4X2
Best Joe Burrow memory?
I have a lot of memories of Joe. But he definitely has those weird moments. My sophomore year, he liked to come in the huddle and just say “Hey guys.” And that’s it. Just don’t say anything else. Just those weird moments definitely made us laugh and made us more comfortable going into the games with that mind frame that we’re comfortable, laid back and we know what we’re going to do. Just in practice, just doing those extra reps. In the summertime we just had those Saturday mornings where we would wake up early in the morning and do those extra reps or whatever we need to work on. Doing that the whole year helped us on the field.
What would it meant to you to play for the Saints?
I haven’t met with them yet but it would mean a lot to be at home and just to be playing for a Saints team that I’ve been watching for my whole life
How did Joe Brady help you?
Joe Brady definitely helped us out with our eye coordination, just our ability to catch in traffic. He helped us with our hands tremendously and that showed on the field in not having as many dropped balls as my sophomore season?
Any drills you’re not doing?
Only thing I’m not doing is the bench press
How comfortable were you running elements of the Saints offense and how comfortable are you with the entire route tree?
I’m very comfortable with doing that style of offense, especially with our team. We have tremendous players. We just felt that we didn’t have that right system for us. When Coach Joe came in with that Pro Style offense and just being able to spread everybody around, and get everybody in space to make those big plays, we were definitely happy with that and look at the outcome. It was phenomenal for us.
On playing with Joe Burrow
It was great. Just having a quarterback like that boosts your confidence. He showed no fear at all. He wasn’t nervous, he was just him the whole game. Having a quarterback like that helps you during the game to be comfortable and make the right move.
On the incident w/ OBJ after the National Championship Game?
A lot of people made a big deal but it was really just the heat of the moment. We talked about it after the fact and we both had some words about it. He shouldn’t have done it but it was really just the heat of the moment.
Did you meet with compliance after that?
We had a talk but I just gave that money back to my church. I just donated my money to them. It just shows that the money didn’t mean that much to me.
Did he apologize?
We talked about it after the fact … we knew we shouldn’t have done it .
What’s the process like for you at this point?
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.
Most important thing Brady brought from the Saints?
I would say dissecting the defense was the main important part that he brought. Also doing the broad drills and helping out with eye coordination, just helping us eye the ball down. He definitely did a great job with that.
Odell’s relationship with LSU
He has a tough relationship. He’s at a game every single year. He’s always doing stuff for us, giving us gifts, giving us new shoes, giving us Beats. He definitely gives us a lot that he has.