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Van Jefferson’s NFL pedigree is considered a huge plus by the Rams

Florida receiver Van Jefferson, now a member of the Rams.
Second-round draft pick Van Jefferson is hoping to fill the Rams’ fourth wider receiver spot now that Josh Reynolds has moved up to No. 3.
(Sam Greenwood / Getty Images)

In his search for post NFL draft information, Rams receiver Robert Woods perused highlights of new teammate Van Jefferson.

The Rams had selected the Florida receiver in the second round, and Woods was curious to learn what he could about a player joining a position group that includes Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds. Woods said this week he found a video in which Jefferson brashly proclaimed after a touchdown that Gators receivers were the best in the Southeastern Conference.

Woods was sold.

“I was like, ‘All right, this dude, already he has that swagger, he has the confidence to come in and dominate,’ ” Woods said.

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The Rams selected Jefferson 57th overall, five spots after they took Florida State running back Cam Akers with their first pick in the draft.

Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning is the latest notable athlete to speak to Rams players during the team’s virtual offseason program.

Jefferson, listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, was chosen to help fill a void that was created after the Rams traded speedy veteran receiver Brandin Cooks. And, with Kupp and Reynolds in the final year of their rookie contracts, also as an investment in the team’s future.

In a draft class that was deep in receivers, Jefferson was the 12th chosen at his position. Neither he nor the Rams consider him the 12th best receiver in the draft.

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“I feel like I can separate from anybody,” Jefferson told reporters the day he was selected.

Jefferson learned from an accomplished tutor.

His father, Shawn, played receiver for 13 NFL seasons. Shawn Jefferson is the receivers coach for the New York Jets.

That upbringing was apparent in Van Jefferson’s play, Rams coach Sean McVay said.

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“He plays like a coach’s kid that’s been around NFL-caliber players,” McVay said. “He looks like he’s been running routes in training camp since he’s 10 years old.”

Rams general manager Les Snead was a scout for the Atlanta Falcons when Shawn Jefferson played for the team from 2000 to 2002. Snead spoke to the elder Jefferson after choosing Van on the second day of last month’s draft.

“Shawn was just like … ‘That kid was raised right. He’s going to work,’ ” Snead said.

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Van Jefferson said his father taught him from an early age how to position his body and make cuts while running routes.

“That’s something that I harp on,” Van Jefferson said, “and just being an all-around receiver.”

Jefferson started his college career at Mississippi. He redshirted in 2015, and then played two seasons before transferring to Florida in the wake of NCAA sanctions handed down against the Ole Miss program.

Last season, he caught 49 passes for 657 yards and six touchdowns.

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Jefferson had an informal meeting with Rams receivers coach Eric Yarber at the NFL scouting combine, but the Rams did not overtly express interest during the run-up to the draft.

On April 24, as the second round began unfolding, his phone buzzed.

“When they called me, I know I saw California, I just didn’t know who it was,” Jefferson said. “I picked it up and it was the Rams and, instantly, it clicked in my head, ‘Man, that offense goes.’ ”

McVay orchestrated one of the NFL’s highest-scoring offenses on 2017 and 2018, but the Rams took a step back last season, finishing with a 9-7 record and missing the playoffs.

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Kupp caught a team-best 94 passes, 10 for touchdowns. Woods, a seven-year veteran, caught 90 passes, two for touchdowns.

Reynolds had 21 catches and started two games in place of Cooks because of injuries. McVay and quarterback Jared Goff have expressed confidence that Reynolds was ready to replace Cooks as a deep threat.

Jefferson projects as capable of playing any of the three receiver spots, McVay said.

Jefferson had foot surgery in March but said after the draft that he was 90% recovered, and that he was eager to learn from Rams receivers. Rookies began participating in the team’s virtual offseason program this week.

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The Rams believe a reunion with new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley would benefit outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, formerly of the Bears, and L.A.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL teams might not have players on the field until training camp. That could stunt the development of rookies.

But Jefferson’s background as the son of an NFL coach portends a readiness other young players might lack.

The Rams are scheduled to play the Jets on Dec. 19 or 20 at SoFi Stadium. Jefferson has not played a game against a team coached by his father.

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“That’ll be a first,” he said.


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