Next up in the Unpacking a Future Packers countdown is Jermar Jefferson. The Oregon State University running back checks in at number 60 in the countdown.
The Green Bay Packers had one of the best running back stables in the NFL this past season. Aaron Jones 1,104 yards and nine touchdowns. He added 355 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Jamaal Williams rushed for 505 yards and added 236 receiving yards. AJ Dillon, the team’s second-round pick in 2020, rushed for 246 yards on 46 attempts.
With Jones and Williams set to hit the open market, it’s likely Dillon’s backfield moving forward. A priority for Brian Gutekunst this offseason is to get Dillon a running mate. A possible match is Oregon State’s, Jermar Jefferson.
Jefferson came to Corvallis as a three-star recruit. He quickly became a household name. As a freshman, Jefferson earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year after setting the program record for rushing yards by a freshman (1,380). Jefferson added 12 rushing touchdowns and had 15 rushes of 20-plus yards, which led the Pac-12.
“Jefferson came to the Beavers as a relative unknown in the sense that he was just a three-star prospect and I don’t think anyone thought he would instantly become one of the best backs in the Pac-12,” Kent Doepel, the owner and publisher of West Coast College Football said. “In the second game of his career with the Beavers, he ran for 238 yards and four touchdowns and it was like “okay this guy might be able to do something special. He finished that freshman season as the Freshman Offensive Player of the Year in the Pac-12 and was a Freshman All-American.”
As a sophomore, Jefferson only played in nine games due to an injury. He finished the season with 685 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
This past season Jefferson rushed for 858 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, Jefferson averaged 3.67 yards after contact.
In 2019, he ended up injured and that limited his effectiveness but this past season he came back even better,” Doepel said. “He was the Beaver’s entire offense at times and even though teams knew they had to stop him they simply couldn’t. He had to face some stacked boxes because the Beavers didn’t have a strong pass offense in 2020 so teams knew he was the focal point of the offense.”
Jefferson is a no-nonsense runner. He doesn’t dance behind the line of scrimmage. He has excellent vision, once he sees an opening he makes one cut and runs to daylight. He has breakaway speed, as evident when he led the Pac-12 his freshman season with 15 rushes of 20-plus yards.
“He has elite vision and reacts quickly when he sees the hole,” Doepel said. “You’ll see on a lot of his runs that he makes a quick cut once he sees the hole and then explodes through it with his 4.43 speed.”
With his quickness and agility, Jefferson is dangerous in space. He has fancy footwork and is able to cut on a dime. He’s able to run through arm tackles and stays balanced through contact.
“Jefferson is dangerous in the open field with his speed and power,” Doepel said. “I wouldn’t consider him a shifty runner though. He explodes through holes with speed and then isn’t afraid to use his lower body strength to break tackles. He has amazing vision and can consistently run through contact. He’s a load to bring down and seems to always gain extra yards once contact is made.”
Jefferson finished his career at Oregon State with 43 receptions for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Not exactly eye-popping numbers, but don’t let that fool you. He’s a threat out of the backfield. He catches the ball cleanly and is up to snuff in pass protection.
Fit with the Packers
It’s highly unlikely that the Packers bring back both Jones and Williams. It’s possible that the Packers bring back one of them, but with money being tight and after spending a second-round pick on Dillon, it’s possible that they let them both walk.
Jefferson makes a ton of sense for the Packers early on day three. He’s got game-changing speed. He has the ability to be a matchup nightmare for linebackers out of the backfield as a receiver. Dillon would provide the thunder, while Jefferson would provide the lightning.
“Jefferson has the physicality, vision and speed that you look for in an NFL running back,” Doepel said. “He should be able to make an instant contribution as a #2 back and has outstanding value in the third to fifth round range.”