The Detroit Lions wrapped up their 2021 NFL draft by selected RB Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State in the seventh round, pick No. 257 overall. Jefferson is the perfect player to explain general manager Brad Holmes’ view on drafting a player with great tape and not worrying about how he tests in the offseason.
Jefferson was a three-star running back out of high school and signed with OSU in 2018. He earned a backup job as a freshman but three games into that season, starter Artavis Pierce was injured and Jefferson took over starting duties for the remaining nine games. He would go on to lead all FBS freshman backs in rushing and earn Freshman All-American honors. He would continue to start over the next two seasons, but due to injuries and a COVID-19 shortened season, he only saw 12 more starts before declaring for the NFL draft.
Jefferson declared with the expectation that he could be drafted as early as the third round, and while most had him pegged as a mid-Day 3 selection, he wasn’t expected to fall to the bottom of the seventh round. That drop has put a firm chip squarely on his shoulder.
“I’ve been in this position before,” Jefferson said. “All my life I’ve been underrated. Just know the Detroit Lions are getting everything out of me. Everything.”
So why did Jefferson fall? His testing could have played a factor as his markers checked in average to below average across the board. But when you put on his game film, you see a different back than you see in his RAS score.
Jefferson is an instinctive, one-cut, inside/outside zone runner who leans on his above-average vision and quick processing skills to find the proper hole and get through it with efficiency. His short-area quickness allows him to create in small spaces but he’s not what you would call a shifty runner.
RB Jermar Jefferson has outstanding patience, feel, timing for the zone run game…
One of the best runners this class in hitting the cutback lane/alleys… Ideal for wide zone team, IMO pic.twitter.com/8HJ20bkgKl
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 19, 2021
At his best when he gets into space, Jefferson runs with great power, and his contact balance can exhaust a defense if he gets into a rhythm. It takes him some time to get up to full speed, but when he’s there, he is the one delivering blows to defenders. When things line up properly, he is capable of hitting on big runs, which he did several times this past season.
In pass protection, Jefferson has a few techniques in his toolbox, as well as the frame and power to absorb pass rushers. Again, his vision is a plus here. His hands are also solid, which could get him on the field in third-down situations.
Probably my favorite of the tier 2 RBs is Jermar Jefferson. Very explosive one-cut runner with advanced footwork on wide zone (not as adept in other run schemes). Then there’s this rep vs the double A-gap twist. Picks up his LB, passes him off for the twist, puts him down pic.twitter.com/WbfCqhLvUs
— J Moyer (@JMoyerFB) March 3, 2021
Jefferson was the feature back at Oregon State, and therefore didn’t play on special teams, but, on the advice of coaches, he made a point of sitting in on those meetings so he could be prepared to play them in the NFL.
With D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, and Kerryon Johnson already in the mix, Jefferson will enter camp as the fourth running back on the roster, but that shouldn’t keep him off the 53-man roster in today’s NFL.