2021 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Jermar Jefferson (Fantasy Football)
When drafting in your dynasty leagues, you ideally want to find a player who was productive early and continued to produce for the majority of his career. Someone who meets this criteria and could also still be available in the third round of your rookie drafts is Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State running back. Jefferson broke out extremely early, exceeding 1500 scrimmage yards as a true freshman. And after a very productive 2020 campaign, he would finish second in scrimmage yards in the PAC-12 and was selected as a First Team All-Pac-12 player. So while he does have some limitations athletically, there is a lot to like in his production profile and film that could lead to success at the next level.
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2021 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the brand-new UDK+ for 2021.
College Production Profile
Coming out of Narbonne High School in California, Jermar Jefferson received offers from schools such as Colorado, Utah, and UNLV before ultimately committing to Oregon State. In his first season for the Beavers, Jermar would impress immediately. In his second game against Southern Utah, he would compile 238 rushing yards and 27 receiving yards to go along with four touchdowns. Because of his early production, per the Dynasty UDK, his breakout age of 18.4 ranks near the top of this class behind only UNC’s Michael Carter. Jefferson finished his freshman season accounting for 62% of the team’s total running back production while being selected as the PAC-12 offensive freshman of the year.
In his Sophomore season, Jefferson experienced a slight decline in efficiency primarily due to an ankle injury. However, Jefferson still accounted for 60% of the team’s RB production on a per-game basis when he was healthy. He averaged about 5.1 yards per touch, which would be a 12% decline from his freshman year. But despite the slight regression, Jefferson would bounce back tremendously in his final year at Oregon State. In 2020, he would set career highs in rushing yards per game (143), touchdowns per game (1.2), and team yards market share (39%). He was a true focal point for the Beaver’s offense, accounting for 85% of the team’s running back production. And to round out his production profile, Jefferson will only be 21 during his rookie year, making him one of the youngest running backs in this class. With a very productive three-year career that includes an elite breakout age, there is a lot to like about Jefferson’s production at Oregon State.
This is where Jefferson’s profile takes a significant hit. After supposedly playing at 217 pounds towards the end of his career at Oregon State, he weighed in at 206 at his most recent pro day. At his height of 5’10”, this equates to a BMI of 29.6, which ranks in the 37th percentile among all running back prospects. For reference, Kenneth Gainwell, whose size is a slight concern for many, has a higher BMI at 30.6. In addition, Jefferson’s 40-yard dash of 4.60 is less than ideal. At his current measurables, PlayerProfiler calculates his speed score at 88.1, which ranks in the 21st percentile among all running backs. In addition, he also recorded a below-average burst score (110.2 – 14th percentile) and agility score (11.78 – 14th percentile) further clouding his athletic upside. Keep in mind, athletic measurables can be improved upon at the next level, though it is slightly concerning that Jefferson recorded below-average numbers on nearly every metric at his pro day.
What’s on Tape
If you followed along with my weekly Dynasty Report, you might already be familiar with my film evaluation process. In short, I try to watch 4 to 6 games, analyzing every snap for that player in each of those games. Let’s dive into Jermar Jefferson’s tape!
Games Viewed: Oregon (2020), Washington State (2020), Cal (2020), Hawaii (2019)
1. Jefferson displayed great vision and patience on outside zone runs
This is where Jefferson excelled tremendously throughout his career. On outside zone runs, he found a lot of success in making decisive cuts to get into the open field. Furthermore, he was very patient in the backfield, allowing his blockers to get set before executing a move. This was especially key to his success, as he only displayed average speed and strength in his college tape. Because of those limitations, he relied heavily on his vision, waiting for a clear lane to develop and then taking advantage of the opening.
2. His decisiveness and timely change-of-direction translated into several positive plays
Being able to process the defense and anticipate their movement was one of Jefferson’s strongest traits. So despite his athletic limitations, Jefferson found success in between the tackles due to his decisiveness and timely movements. He displayed great awareness with the ability to adjust in the trenches if his initial lane closed. If the offensive line collapsed earlier than expected, Jefferson found ways to bounce outside or change his trajectory to salvage the play.
Below is one of his more impressive runs. Accelerating past the line, he noticed that his running lane was no longer available. The subtle and seamless change of direction to the right allowed him to accelerate into the open field. Had he continued to pursue his initial trajectory, this run would have likely resulted in a 10 yard gain at the most.
3. Jefferson needs a clear lane to accelerate to 100.
You probably gathered in my athletic profile above that Jefferson is not a speedster like Chuba Hubbard or Travis Etienne. It often takes him a few seconds or even a clear lane to rev up into full speed. As a result, because he faced stacked fronts on several occasions, some of his runs ended in shorter gains. However, once he gets into the open field with a full head of steam, he has the ability to maintain his top-end speed and take it to the house. My concern is that in the NFL, he will likely encounter more athletic defenders who could get to him before he can accelerate fully, potentially limiting his big playability.
What’s Not on Tape
1. Jefferson was not used heavily as a receiving RB
In his three-year career at Oregon State, Jefferson only averaged about 1.59 receptions per game. In fact, in the four games that I watched, he caught the ball three times generating a whopping 10 yards. In addition, he was not the most natural receiver, dropping the ball once and struggling to create separation on the very few routes that I saw. It is important to note that he did record 25 receptions for 147 yards in his freshman season. However, that still only equated to a 5% receiving yards market share, which is only one percentage point above his career average (4%). Because of his lack of receiving work, his fantasy upside as a PPR running back may be rather limited. And since he also struggled as a blocker, Jefferson currently profiles as a two-down runner unless he can further improve on these traits.
2. He lacked consistency at breaking tackles and creating yards
When watching running backs on tape, I love seeing a player’s ability to create yards by evading or breaking tackles. Unfortunately, Jefferson struggled in this department, especially when facing a defender head-on. Part of this is due to his limited burst and short-area quickness, especially when moving laterally. At times, the defense would get to him early in the play, initiate a tackle, and Jefferson could not shake them away to create additional yards. Every now and then he will evade a defender, but all too often he would go down at the first point of contact. Simply put, with Jefferson’s inability to shed tackles consistently, his upside could be limited at the next level.
2021 Fantasy Outlook
In total, Jermar Jefferson has one of the more impressive production profiles in this RB class. He broke out very early and remained extremely involved for the Oregon State Beavers throughout his three-year career. However, as I mentioned above, his athleticism is a major concern as it could limit his ability to create plays in the NFL. Regardless, draft capital (as with all running backs) will be the strongest indicator of success for Jefferson. If he is drafted in the second or third round, it could translate into production depending on the team that he lands on. However, per the NFL Mock Draft Database, Jefferson is currently trending as a 5th round pick, which would severely limit his upside as a fantasy running back. Surprisingly, one of the more popular landing spots for Jefferson is the San Francisco 49ers, which is extremely intriguing due to their frequent use of the outside zone running scheme. For now, Jefferson’s upside and immediate production will remain murky until we find out where he will play next season.