The Detroit Lions took a flier on the running back position to close out their 2021 NFL Draft class. The team spent a seventh round pick, No. 257 overall, on Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson.
If you took a cursory glance at Jefferson’s 2019 and 2020 statistics compared to his 2018 freshman season, you’d think he took a major step back. However, there is a good chance he’s still that same player — just with an ankle injury and a shortened season bringing his overall body of work into question.
Six games, 133 attempts, 858 yards, 6.5 ypc, 7 TDs
Six games, 9 receptions, 67 yards, 0 TDs
Jefferson’s freshman year was a barn burner, as he rushed for 1,380 yards and 12 scores on 239 carries (5.8 ypc). Jefferson also caught 25 passes for 147 yards, but an ankle injury slowed him down in his sophomore season. He was healthy in his junior season, returning to form as his yards per carry went to 6.5, the highest of his college career. But his team only played in six games due to Covid-19.
Jefferson has strong vision at the line and does not hesitate to hit the gaps his linemen give him. His strength in the NFL will be best suited for a zone blocking scheme. He isn’t going to run by people with his average speed, but he is going to get you the yards he’s asked to get in-between the tackles.
Fantasy football impact
Seventh round draft picks rarely go out and put together a productive rookie season from a fantasy perspective, though stranger things have happened. James Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a rookie last season despite being undrafted. Still, it’s unlikely Jermar Jefferson can make an impact in Year 1 assuming he makes the final roster. Detroit will likely have D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams and Kerryon Johnson ahead of him on the depth chart. Jefferson will likely need multiple injuries to see the field much in 2021.
The first step to a long NFL career is actually making it to the NFL, so Jefferson can check that off the list. Now, he has to make the most of his opportunities to stick around and sustain a productive professional career. The odds are stacked against him as a seventh round pick, but he is still very young as he just turned 21. In his meeting with reporters, Jefferson said he expected to go in the third or fourth round, so this could be a “chip on the shoulder” situation as he continues to develop.