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NFL Draft

Justin Jefferson Is Having Success Because He’s Doing What He Does Best

  • The Draft Network
  • October 3, 2020
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After a blistering 7-175-1 stat line last week, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has become all the rage in media circles, and for good reason.

Jefferson is looking sharp, poised, and nuanced for a rookie and already plays like a five-year veteran, which speaks not only to his growth in such a short period but also to his pro-ready skill set coming out of LSU.

This success shouldn't come as a surprise, though, as Jefferson’s game was easily translatable from the get-go. Minnesota has simply taken what he did for the last few years and asked him to do just that at the NFL level.

Put in a position to accentuate all of the traits and skills he used in college, Jefferson is seeing immediate results because he’s doing what he does best.

Sometimes, it’s that simple.

Pre-Draft Analysis

I’d like to think I was as high as Jefferson as anyone coming out of college, but the truth is that virtually everyone—including both me and the Vikings—gave him a Round 1 grade.

There seemed to be a consensus on Jefferson, who is blessed with an extremely high floor and terrific production, and it’s one that has since proven largely true throughout the first few games of his career.

Below is a quick synopsis of my pre-draft scouting report:

"Dependable and nuanced slot option who can also play on the outside. Has a strong understanding of where to be on the field and routinely works his way back to the QB in scramble situations. Can press vertically and win jump-balls on a relatively consistent basis. Smooth and crafty route-technician who operates with extreme patience at the LOS. Terrific blocker who brings strong tenacity and effort in the run game. Silky hips and quality body contortion skills help him tremendously in sideline situations and on back-shoulder fades. Can drop the odd pass but usually very reliable in this regard. Needs to work on being more sudden and explosive at the top of his breaks. Not a huge threat with the ball in his hands, but often uses his slippery and crafty nature to create yards after catch. Didn't match-up against many physical press corners, but had some issues working vertically when he did. Developed terrific chemistry and trust with QB Joe Burrow during his time at LSU. Productive and athletic prospect who checks most boxes."

CFB/NFL Similarities

The majority of players have to adapt their games to the pro level, but Jefferson doesn’t look like he’s going to be one of them.

Of course, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t improved and won’t continue to develop in several areas, but the similarities of his success at LSU versus his early success with Minnesota (even after just three games) is striking.

Here are four aspects of Jefferson's collegiate game that he has already put in his NFL arsenal.

Rocker Step

This is best described as a double bam step; if you want to get less technical, it’s basically a basketball Euro step but cut in half. A rocker step is a highly effective move typically used at the stem of vertical routes that Jefferson is extremely comfortable using.

LSU example(s):

Vikings example:

Option Routes

Two of Jefferson’s top strengths are patience and quickness in short areas. Option or choice routes allow him to accentuate these two skills by lining up in the slot and choosing to plant in either direction after processing which way the defender is going.

LSU example(s):

Vikings example:

Body Control

Jefferson isn’t the biggest player, but he has terrific body control, contortion skills, and a pair of plucky hands. He’s able to use those traits best on back-shoulder passes and in contested situations. 

LSU example(s):

Vikings example

Crafty Nature

It’s not flashy, but Jefferson is an intelligent player who knows exactly when and where he needs to be on a routine basis. Blessed with unbelievable spatial awareness, Jefferson uses this football intelligence in many ways, including as a ball-carrier, in sideline situations, and in instances where he needs to find open holes in zone coverage. It's this nuanced and crafty stuff that separates him from the pack.

LSU example(s):

Vikings example:

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