Ryan here, back with another under-the-radar devy prospect. As far as recruiting goes, this player was a huge miss as he was classified as a two-star prospect by Rivals and a three-star by 24/7. However, these designations have not stopped him from becoming one of the best wide receivers in the nation.
As the title to this article may have given away, that would be none other than Justin Jefferson, a junior from LSU.
Justin is the third Jefferson brother to play for LSU. Jordan was a quarterback and Rickey was a defensive back. That’s just a fun fact though.
I covered Justin Jefferson back in July when he made my list of the top devy receivers of 2019, coming in at number 15. He is currently 10th in my class-of-2020 receiver rankings, which is the deepest class I have ever seen at the position. (Edit, 12/6: Jefferson has moved up to 9th in my rankings.)
As a sophomore last season, Jefferson caught 54 passes for 875 yards and 6 touchdowns in 13 games. As a junior this season, in just 10 games, Jefferson has exceeded each of these metrics, collecting 71 passes for 1010 yards and 11 touchdowns. (Edit, 12/6: Jefferson finished the regular season with a stat line of 81/1092/13.)
Mind you, this is against SEC competition. These numbers include big-time performances against Texas and Florida in particular, but Jefferson has had at least 5 receptions for 60 yards in all but one game so far. In the one game he did not eclipse those figures, he scored a touchdown to compensate.
Of course, stats don’t tell the whole story. Film on Jefferson also shows an overall improvement in his game. This extra production is not solely a result of the meteoric rise of Joe Burrow as a passer.
In the previous write-up I did on Jefferson, I talked about how he’s a high-effort player, one of the faster guys on the field with speed in the 4-4s, he’s consistent, and – while he was used most often as a deep threat in 2018 – that he had the physical traits necessary to progress as a route runner and become a more complete receiver. Jefferson has improved in this area and more in 2019.
He can lineup in the slot as well as on the outside and is really good at getting open by finding soft spots in the defense. He’s a reliable chain-mover with big-play ability who displays good hands and the ability to make tough catches in traffic, holding onto the ball even when he gets hit. He’s also surprisingly shifty for a guy who stands six-foot-three. This height also allows Jefferson to be a dangerous target in the redzone.
One of the most impressive plays Jefferson has made in 2019, in my opinion, was a touchdown he scored against Texas late in the 4th quarter of that game. It was 3rd and 17, the score was 37 to 31, LSU leading. The Tigers needed a big, clutch play to convert this down and not give Texas the ball back with plenty of time for Sam Ehlinger to lead the Longhorns down the field for a go-ahead score. Jefferson beat his defender by a step to make the reception for first-down yardage. He wasn’t done though. Jefferson turned upfield, slipped a tackle, and outran the Texas defense for a score that sealed the game for LSU.
This play says as much about Jefferson’s mental makeup as it does about his athleticism and ability as a receiver. He is a guy who can be counted on to make a play when the game is on the line.
While he’s still a junior and could opt to return to college for one more year, Jefferson’s major at LSU is “interdisciplinary studies.” Translation: he’s in college to go pro. Should he declare, much like his predecesor, DJ Chark, he should see a rise in draft stock throughout the offseason and find himself in the second-round conversation for the NFL Draft by the time it comes around. I see Jefferson best suited as a #2 receiver for a pro team, but he will be a good one. In a dynasty context, I would be willing to spend a late second round pick in a rookie draft on Jefferson, but this could increase based on his landing spot.
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