There are dozens of sleeper candidates in the 2023 NFL Draft, and with his scouting report, Louisiana WR Michael Jefferson is one of them. Every season, we see at least one or two late-round receivers massively outperform their draft billing. Could Jefferson be one of those players?
Michael Jefferson NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Louisiana
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’3 3/4″, 202 pounds
- Length: 32 5/8″
- Wingspan: 79 3/8″
- Hand: 9 3/4″
It sometimes goes overlooked just how talent-dense the wide receiver position is, year in and year out. Every season, you often have at least two or three receivers on the field on any given down. Teams less than five-deep in a rotation often struggle to find consistency.
Arguably no position is more cluttered than WR. And that may ultimately be why some WRs need a few more years to gear up and find their stride. Breakout age is a popular subject each draft season — and deservedly so, as it does have valuable implications — but every developmental path is different.
Case in point: Michael Jefferson. For three years, Jefferson was at Alabama State. From 2018 to 2020, Jefferson was with the Hornets, fighting to find recognition on the national stage. A breakout 2019 season that saw him record 49 catches for 767 yards and 12 scores was enough, and that led to him receiving a transfer opportunity at Louisiana in 2021.
In 2021, Jefferson’s big-play ability truly flashed under the Ragin’ Cajuns’ oversight. Despite coming sixth on the team in receptions with just 18, Jefferson was the team’s leading receiver at 481 yards, with four touchdowns to boot. In 2022, he expanded his imprint as a premier offensive playmaker, collecting 51 catches for 810 yards and seven scores.
Now, after toiling in anonymity for the better part of five years, Jefferson is suddenly a known commodity on the NFL draft stage. He was a standout at the Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas and earned an NFL Combine invite. Being drafted is a definite possibility for Jefferson, and in fact, his floor might be even higher than that.
Michael Jefferson Scouting Report
- Tall, lanky receiver with a streamlined frame and great functional length.
- Has excellent vertical speed for his size when he’s able to open his strides.
- Can cover ground quickly with long-strider explosiveness when he has an open runway.
- Tracks the ball very well downfield and can corral deep passes while maintaining stride.
- Consistently makes a point to cradle the ball with strong hands away from his frame.
- Uses his long-strider speed to devour cushions and press vertical before crossing infield.
- Has split and skip releases off the line and can use his length to swipe at DBs in press.
- Is precise with his applied physicality and can use double-swipes to keep himself clean.
- Has blind spot and leverage IQ and can bend around DBs, attacking space with burst.
- Flashes smooth evasiveness and above-average contact balance after the catch.
Areas for Improvement
- Lacks elite initial burst, featuring more build-up speed downfield with powerful strides.
- Foot speed and short-area flexibility are visibly non-elite, limiting recovery at times.
- Hips can be stiff on releases, preventing him from fully unhinging and releasing energy.
- Naturally upright and can waste motion at times without displacing at the line.
- Shows promise as a route runner but can expand route tree beyond vertical concepts.
- Lean frame doesn’t hold up well against contact after the catch and is easy to topple.
- Can be late to discern trajectory and extend for faster-paced throws at times.
Louisiana WR Michael Jefferson Current Draft Projection
Jefferson grades out as an early-to-mid Day 3 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. He’s a definite sleeper at the WR position, and while he may be confined to a niche role in the NFL, he could be a valuable rotational weapon for the team that selects him.
There’s one clearly marketable element that Jefferson provides, and that’s his utility as a vertical threat. At almost 6’4 “, 202 pounds, with near-33” arms, Jefferson is a looming target with great size and reach. He also has the long-strider speed to stress defenses deep, find space, and convert with his ball-tracking ability and hand/eye coordination.
What’s exciting about Jefferson’s profile is that there are flashes of utility beyond that archetype. He has good agility for his size and an in-progress release package he can use to generate displacement, while using targeted physicality. He also brings spatial awareness as a route runner, and while he doesn’t have the most expansive tree, there are traits to build off of.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Having said all this, there are natural drawbacks to being a 6’4″ route runner. Jefferson’s tall and upright nature can detract from his efficiency at times, and he doesn’t have high-level twitch, hip fluidity, or sink. Additionally, while he flashes good evasiveness after the catch, he’s not a proven entity there, either.
In the immediate timeline, Jefferson is a good rotational receiver who can specialize as a vertical weapon. With his size, speed, and sure hands, he can generate big plays as an ancillary threat. And with more development, he could grow to find his stride as a chain-mover as well. He may never be a full-time starter, but he can fill a valuable role.
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