Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson was selected No. 57 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. The rookie only played 24% of the Rams’ offensive snaps last season. The departure of Josh Reynolds improves Jefferson’s fantasy football outlook, but is he a value at his current ADP?
Van Jefferson’s fantasy outlook for 2021
The Rams have 190 available targets heading into the season. This includes Reynolds, tight end Gerald Everett, and running back Malcolm Brown. Los Angeles also has a new franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford to replace Jared Goff. His arm strength, accuracy, and football IQ will mesh well in head coach Sean McVay’s offense.
The only other quarterbacks since 2011 with more fantasy points than Stafford (3,119) are Russell Wilson (3,204), Matt Ryan (3,352), Aaron Rodgers (3,487), Tom Brady (3,502), and Drew Brees (3,524).
Receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp will continue to command a large target share. The duo averaged a combined 16.4 targets per game last season. Meanwhile, Reynolds averaged 5.4 targets per game.
Nevertheless, Jefferson prospered when he filled in for Kupp late last year in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. He caught 6 of 7 targets for 46 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Packers. So, could this be a taste of things to come in 2021?
Jefferson’s competition for snaps and targets
There is an opportunity for Jefferson to earn more snaps and targets this season. He’ll be competing with veteran DeSean Jackson and rookie Tutu Atwell during training camp for the No. 3 receiver role on the Rams depth chart. Multiple reports suggest Jefferson and Jackson are having strong training camps.
Since 2015, Jackson has averaged 6.1 targets, 3.4 receptions, 58 receiving yards, and 97.5 receiving air yards per game in 58 active games. Did you know that he’s averaged 17 yards per reception over this time frame? At this stage of his career, Jackson is deployed more as a situational deep threat.
Atwell had a very good career at the University of Louisville. He set the school record for receiving yards back in 2019 and tied the record for receiving touchdowns. Atwell accumulated 140 receptions for 2,307 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns in three seasons. His career touchdown receptions are tied for the fifth-most in school history. Atwell could see a similar target share in 2021 to what Jefferson was provided during his rookie season.
Despite the new additions, Jefferson has one advantage over his competitors — knowledge of McVay’s scheme.
The Rams offense has been one of the most productive in the NFL since McVay arrived in Los Angeles in 2017. The Rams have averaged 120 rushing yards and 273.3 passing yards per game under his leadership.
McVay has historically leveraged the play-action passing game
The Rams’ running game with Darrell Henderson, who will replace an injured Cam Akers, will continue to be an important component of McVay’s offense. Since McVay has become the head coach, the Rams have ranked first in the NFL in play-action rate. Furthermore, the Rams have one of the top offensive lines in the NFL.
Woods, Kupp, and Jefferson all have phenomenal route-running skills. They can attack defenses on short, intermediate, or deep routes. Jackson and Atwell will primarily be used to threaten defenses vertically. Therefore, Jefferson would be the logical source to operate as the Rams’ No. 3 option.
He could relieve Woods or Kupp in two-receiver sets. Unfortunately, the presence of Jackson and Atwell will still siphon targets away from Jefferson in 2021. The Rams used four or five wide-receiver sets on less than 1% of their plays last season. You should consider this when contemplating drafting Jefferson this season.
Hope is not a winning strategy in fantasy football.
Jefferson projects for around 60 targets, 36 receptions, 560 receiving yards, and 3 touchdowns in 2021. Woods and Kupp will be the only Rams receivers to accumulate 100+ targets this season. Moreover, tight end Tyler Higbee could finish with the third-most targets.
Van Jefferson’s ADP
Jefferson is readily available outside of the 15th round of fantasy drafts when reviewing redraft ADP data from Fantasy Football Calculator. He has a similar ADP in pay-to-play fantasy formats, such as the National Fantasy Championship, at 227.09 as the WR81 overall.
Should you draft Jefferson in 2021?
Jefferson is a talented receiver but faces multiple obstacles to seeing significant snaps and targets this season. He is someone to target late in 14 or 16-team fantasy leagues with deep benches. In order to become fantasy-relevant, Jefferson would need Woods or Kupp to miss significant time.