With the third-to-last pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, acquired as part of trade with the Cleveland Browns early Saturday afternoon, the Lions selected Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson.
Jefferson is coming off a season where he appeared in six games, rushing for 858 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and scored eight touchdowns.
A below-average athlete, at least based on his pro day testing, he still found a way to produce as a physical rusher in the Beavers offense. And the fact that he lasted until pick No. 257 irked him.
“I feel like there was nothing else I could do out there,” Jefferson said. “I showed my long speed out there this past year. I showed vision. Caught the ball out of the backfield. I don’t know what teams were missing or that I didn’t have. You know, I felt like I was the best running back in the Pac-12.”
Lions general manager Brad Holmes acknowledged he was also surprised to find Jefferson still on the board at that spot.
“He’s such an instinctive runner,” Holmes said. “He has a natural feel to be a slippery inside player. He runs hard. He just has a natural feel for a lot of inside zone stuff, but he can do all phases. Gap power stuff, inside zone stuff, but he’s just a very smooth, slippery, instinctive runner who we’re really excited about.”
Given the emphasis Holmes placed on grit with his first draft class, he probably didn’t mind hearing Jefferson plans to channel his frustration into something positive.
“I’ve been in this position before,” Jefferson said. “All my life I’ve been underrated. Went to a low-tier college, wasn’t recruited by any good high schools or anything. … I’m just trying to show the world. I’m gonna shock the world. Just know that Detroit Lions getting everything outta me. Everything.”
In addition to his ability as a ball carrier, Jefferson also caught 43 passes out of the backfield during his college career with only one drop.
He’ll join a backfield rotation headed by D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams and Kerryon Johnson. Jefferson will compete for a job as a developmental fourth option.