Every team has a perfect draft fit. That player who’s both a scheme and value fit and for the New York Jets, that’s Justin Jefferson.
The New York Jets have too many holes on their roster to count. They need offensive linemen, wide receivers, cornerbacks, and edge rushers. That’s just the top of the list.
General manager Joe Douglas has valiantly tried to put together a patchwork offensive line with great value free agents. Greg Van Roten and Alex Lewis fit into that group.
Connor McGovern was the biggest splash the Jets made and he’s a top-10 center in the NFL. A huge signing that should shore up that position for the length of his contract.
Then George Fant fits into a category all his own. The former Seahawks backup is a huge gamble. He’s one of the most athletic tackles in the NFL, but his lack of starting experience is a huge red flag. These are the kind of signings that make or break general managers.
Even with all those signings the Jets still need another offensive lineman. That’s why it’s highly unlikely they give Sam Darnold a weapon in the first round.
A player like Henry Ruggs III from Alabama makes a ton of sense. His speed, hands, route running, and YAC ability make him an ideal fit in Adam Gase‘s offense. It seems unlikely that the Jets would make him the selection if one of the big four offensive linemen are on the board at 11. If you think the Jets will draft Ruggs, you can get 8/1 odds that he will be the Jets first-round pick via the latest 2020 NFL Draft odds.
Douglas seems to value the offensive line too much. That doesn’t mean that wide receiver isn’t the biggest need on the roster. The Jets currently have Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and a list of unknowns at wide receiver. That’s one proven wide receiver on the roster. That’s unacceptable in the modern NFL.
Lucky for Douglas, the 2020 draft class is the deepest wide receiver class the NFL has seen in a long time. That means he will have a chance to address the position with a first-round talent in the second round.
Enter the New York Jets’ perfect fit LSU standout wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
Adam Gase’s offense is reliant on strong route runners with good hands. That’s where Justin Jefferson comes in. He’s going to be the big-bodied athletic outside receiver that Gase’s offenses usually rely on.
In Chicago that was Alshon Jeffery and in Denver it was Demaryius Thomas. Of the two Jefferson compares closer to Jeffery.
Jefferson is a little taller and faster than Jeffery, but Jeffery is a more physical receiver. Other than that the two are very similar. they are strong route runners with a knack for making difficult catches.
That makes them ideal targets for quarterbacks with turnover problems like Sam Darnold and Jay Cutler. Their quarterback can put the ball in a place only their receiver can get it and they can make a play.
That’s an incredibly important skill in a short passing game. If a quarterback knows he can rely on his receiver to make a sideline grab on a dig route, or absorb a hit over the middle on a slant, or win a route in the red zone to give your quarterback a target.
Jeffery and Jefferson do this in different ways. Jeffery is physical and would often beat corners with his size and make himself a target for quarterbacks on short routes.
Meanwhile, Jefferson is going to use his natural athleticism and his change of direction speed to beat corners. Jefferson has a physical side to his game, but he would rather beat you on pure skill.
That puts him in trouble at times, but it also makes him a greater threat after the catch then Jeffery was. Since he’s not using his body to win a route he can better adjust once the ball’s in his hands.
That’s key in Gase’s offense. He loves receivers who can make things happen with the ball in their hand. Jefferson isn’t on the level of Ruggs ability with the ball, but he’s above average. He can make men miss and turn short gains into large ones.
Adding a big-bodied reciever with the ability to make men miss in the open field would be a dream for Gase. Jefferson is his ideal receiver. He can get everything he wants out of his primary target while also getting the big body and contested-catch ability that makes many receivers special.
In any other draft class Jefferson is a first-round prospect. He’s not an elite receiver prospect, but he’s a good one. His skills should translate to the NFL and make him a successful player.
He may not be a star from day one, but he should be serviceable. He’ll likely be a second option in the NFL from day one with the potential to be more.
His biggest weakness is his lack of physicality when running routes. It makes him susceptible to bigger stronger corners and press coverage. Teams that have a real number one corner will have no problem shutting down Jefferson during his rookie year.
He’ll need to either put on more strength to take away that weakness, or he’ll need to figure out counter moves to beat the press. That will come with more experience in the league and when it does Jefferson could be a true number one receiver.
He’ll likely never be elite, but he could fit into the Tyler Boyd, Cooper Kupp, Michael Gallup, D.J. Chark tier of receiver. 1,000-yard receivers who can fit into either a number one or number two role and still get their production.
That would make Justin Jefferson the best receiver the New York Jets have had since Brandon Marshall and the best they’ve drafted since Laveranues Coles.