With week two now in the books, younger players are starting to establish more of a role on their teams. Across the league, depth charts are beginning to shake out a little bit. This will continue to do so more across the season. I don’t like victory lapping. However, I wasn’t expecting Rondale Moore to turn into a star so quickly. Last week he was the player I highlighted, and now he’s the star of 99% of waiver wire articles. Let’s see if we can keep that going with this week’s Tomorrow’s Star.
Having started the series with two rookies. I’m keen to look beyond first-year players. Sometimes it takes players a little longer to develop. Whether it be a change in the depth chart or a change in personnel around them. This week I’m looking at someone who I think has a real chance to develop into a star in a high-octane offense. This week’s Tomorrow Star Today is LA Rams receiver, Van Jefferson.
Who is he
The Rams drafted Van Jefferson at pick 57 in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL draft. Jefferson played four years in college. He transferred to Florida after his sophomore year at Ole Miss. This was not too much of a surprise to see. Van would have been competing with stars DK Metcalf and AJ Brown for playing time at Ole Miss. However, in his first season with the Gators, Jefferson led the team in receiving. Van is the son of ex-NFL wide receiver and current New York Jets receivers coach Shawn Jefferson.
Coming out of college, Jefferson was projected as a versatile receiver. He was expected to do most of his damage out of the slot. Jefferson’s physical attributes are nothing more than solid. However, his tape showed a route running prowess and an ability to get off the line against press with ease. Draft analysts also pointed to his competitive streak and polished technique. It was clear right away why the Rams valued Jefferson. There are plenty of similarities between him and Cooper Kupp. This is due to his versatility and willingness to play any part at receiver.
Jefferson’s rookie year at the Rams was quiet. Posting 19 receptions for 220 yards and a touchdown. However, it’s rare for rookie wide receivers to thrive on the Rams. Sean McVay’s offense is a complicated one. Receivers are often asked to either block or go in motion at the snap. This means it can take a while for a receiver to settle into the system. The stat line above is missing a good performance in the playoffs, with six receptions against the Packers for 46 yards and a touchdown.
What’s his outlook for this season
Coming into the year, it didn’t look great for Jefferson. The Rams have two stud receivers at the top of their depth charts with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. They then signed veteran DeSean Jackson and drafted Tutu Atwell with their first pick. Looking at this, it would be easy to see a path to irrelevancy for Jefferson before the season even started.
However, two weeks in, I don’t feel that’s the case. First of all, it’s clear that the latter two players are to be used in a different role than Jefferson. Neither of them has seen the field too much so far, with Jackson seeing 17 snaps and Atwell only seeing 2. Van Jefferson has so far seen 90 snaps – only 8 behind Robert Woods. Even though the Rams brought in two potential new targets, it’s worth mentioning that the team saw 142 vacated targets with the departures of Josh Reynolds and Gerald Everett. Neither Jackson (at this point) nor Tutu project to be high-volume players, which means those targets could see themselves going Jefferson’s way.
On top of this, it’s worth noting the increased passing volume on the Rams’ offense. Through two games this year, the Rams have seen a slight uptick in passing volume when compared to the previous year (an average of 37 attempts per game as opposed to 34). Average yards per attempt have also risen from 7.2 to 10.8 It’s only a small sample size, but this matches the eye test of what we’re seeing from the Rams offense too. They are more explosive with Matthew Stafford and happier to throw the ball down the field a bit more. Jefferson was the first player to take advantage of this, connecting with Stafford for a 67-yard touchdown that was Stafford’s first on the Rams.
Jefferson has so far only seen three targets across two games but has caught all three. His snap count tells more of a story, and I think he’s already established himself as the clear WR3 on the team.
Why is he a future star
I’ll admit, star might be pushing it a little bit for Jefferson. In the same way, the Rams’ current wide receivers are forever undervalued, I don’t project Jefferson to ever break out into an alpha for fantasy. However, I think he is going well under the radar as someone who could develop into a solid WR2/3 for your team in the seasons to come. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have both recently had shiny new contracts, but there’s an out in Kupp’s after 2022. Woods also spent the offseason being highlighted as a potential trade candidate for a team that loves to move pieces around. Were anything to happen to these two, I think Jefferson would vault straight into WR2 conversation. His skillset matches up perfectly as a versatile replacement for the Rams, which means he could fill the shoes of the two current WR1s.
However, even without something happening to another receiver, I think there’s a clear path for Jefferson to become a lot more fantasy-relevant. As mentioned above, the Rams have a lot of vacated targets, are passing the ball more, and are passing the ball more efficiently and explosively.
On top of this, Jefferson has shown developments both in camp and in week one as a deep threat. The Athletic reported a connection on the deep ball between Jefferson and Stafford throughout training camp. We then saw this on the field with that long touchdown week one. Having thrown a few darts into the deep threat role with Jackson and Atwell, it’s clear all the Rams are looking for is for someone to hit to make their offense more explosive.
As the WR3 in a high-volume offense, Jefferson could easily end up as a great value WR3 or flex option in fantasy football. This is particularly key tied into his cost.
Van Jefferson is essentially a throw-in at this point, who could easily be available on your waiver wire if managers aren’t paying attention. This summer, I’ve seen him go for a late third-round pick. At that point, why not take a flier on a player whose team clearly love him, and whose team has the potential to be a high volume and high success passing offense in the years to come?