Although the overall running back landscape of the 2021 dynasty rookie class is underwhelming, Oregon State’s Jermar Jefferson could be a mid-round gem poised to vault up in fantasy football rankings. While his collegiate profile leaves his dynasty value in question, Jefferson could be a productive complement to an already established running back.
Jermar Jefferson’s dynasty value for 2021
Jefferson was a player I went back and forth on all offseason. There are times where he jumped off the screen but then would frustrate you with inconsistencies. After breaking out as a freshman, he missed time with an injury in 2019 but followed it up with a solid 2020 campaign.
Jefferson is an all-around running back who does have some fantastic traits moving into the NFL. The issues come down to size, long speed, and occasional head-scratching decisions.
To start, he possibly has the best vision in the class. Time and time again, you would see him searching for cut-back lanes rather than pushing into the nonexistent hole using his lateral speed and quickness. Linemen hate nothing more than an RB running into the back of their legs.
His testing numbers at his pro day also left a lot to be desired. Despite weighing 206 pounds rather than his advertised 216, he ran a sluggish 4.55 40-yard dash. His agility drills also disappointed, as he recorded a 4.55 three-cone, a 31-inch vertical jump, and a 115-inch broad jump.
There are times where Jefferson looked like a world-beater, yet in others, he seemed pedestrian. Even in a relatively weak running back class, Jefferson, like many others, saw his draft capital come crashing down after a massive slide in the NFL Draft.
Jermar Jefferson selected by the Detroit Lions at pick No. 257
If I were to pick any player I swung and missed on compared to their NFL Draft capital, Jefferson might be the top of the list. Him or Tamorrion Terry if I am beign transpartent. In all honestly, this might be even worse than going undrafted. At least then, he could have potentially chosen his team rather than being locked in a crowded depth chart behind one of the top rookie rushers from the year prior.
It wasn’t until after their Week 5 bye week where D’Andre Swift took over the backfield either. From Week 6 thru 10 (before his injury), Swift was the RB4 in fantasy, averaging 17.2 PPR points per game. Still, he finished as the RB18 (14.6 ppg) in 13 games played. I expect to see him average between 17-20 touches per game in this offense. With the Lions trailing in games, it’s the most efficient way to generate touches.
Also, Jamaal Williams signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract in the offseason after he logged 119 carries for 505 yards while hauling in 31 receptions for 236 yards and 3 touchdowns across 14 games for the Packers.
Even with Kerryon Johnson on the Philidelphia Eagles following his release, where is the room for Jefferson in this offense? One thing we do know is that an Anthony Lynn offense is adaptable in its scheme. We have seen him go extremely run-focused (Buffalo in 2016) to the opposite side of the spectrum in 2018 with the Chargers.
If the Lions were going to be in neutral game scripts, Jefferson could have seen the field as a rotation piece and third-down rusher. But the Lions are a team likely vying for the #1 overall pick in 2022, thus limiting any significant volume beyond what Swift will see as the RB1. The way it stands now, Jefferson carries little to no dynasty value in his current role on the offense.
Jefferson elevated his fantasy stock in 2020
Jefferson rushed for 1,380 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018 to go along with 25 receptions for 147 yards as a true freshman. He wasted no time and made his presence felt in Corvallis early. In his second game against Southern Utah, he would compile 265 total yards with 4 touchdowns. Despite coming onto campus as a backup, Jefferson ended the season as the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year.
As a sophomore, an ankle injury cost him three games and cut into his overall effectiveness and production. Jefferson appeared in nine games for the Beavers, rushing 142 times for 685 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Jefferson entered 2020 with many questioning what type of player he truly is and if his freshman year was just a flash in the pan. Despite how the Pac-12 handled the pandemic, Jefferson shined. He rushed 133 times for 858 yards and 7 touchdowns. He started all six games and caught 9 passes for 67 yards. Jefferson began the season with four straight games over 100 rushing yards and finished the year with more rushing yards than his sophomore campaign.
His performance in Week 4 against Oregon was arguably the best outing of his career. Playing against two likely top-three-overall picks when they enter the draft (Kayvon Thibodeaux and Noah Sewell), Jefferson recorded 226 yards and 2 scores on 29 carries.
Where should you draft Jefferson in dynasty rookie drafts?
There is no dancing around the fact that the 2021 running back class is not great. We have a true stud in Najee Harris (Pittsburgh) and two solid RB2s in Javonte Williams (Denver) and Travis Etienne (Jacksonville). Beyond those, it is not pretty compared to previous seasons. Traditionally, running backs dominate the first round of rookie drafts — not this year. Harris, Etienne, and Williams are the only first-round RBs and should go in the first six picks. It’s plausible you might not see another RB come off the board until the back half of the second round with Trey Sermon and Michael Carter.
The way it stands right now, Jefferson took a massive slide in my rankings from his pre-draft RB5 spot. In most PPR 1QB dynasty drafts, Jefferson is a late-round flier at best. Even in dynasty where running backs are at a premium, it is not uncommon to see him go undrafted.
One of the most significant factors working against Jefferson, from a fantasy standpoint, is the lack of involvement in the passing game. In 27 career games, Jefferson caught only 43 passes with only 18 over his last two seasons combined. In PPR formats, this drastically lowers his scoring potential.
At his current ADP, I’ll take some shots on him at the end of the draft. However, I will also be mindful that he could end up on waivers a year from now. Should I see a name start to rise up in camp, he will likely be one of the first players waived to make room for someone more promising.
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