Thursday, December 7, 2023

Van Jefferson trade grades: Rams deal veteran WR to Falcons for swap of late-round draft picks

One of the key storylines surrounding the Los Angeles Rams through the first month of the season has centered around the wide receiver position. The club saw the emergence of a rookie wideout in Puka Nacua and just welcomed back superstar Cooper Kupp from IR on Sunday. Again, the receiver spot is taking center stage in L.A., but it’s regarding a former high draft pick who is being shipped out of town.

The club has agreed to trade Van Jefferson to the Atlanta Falcons, the teams announced Tuesday. The trade includes a 2025 pick swap with the Rams obtaining Atlanta’s sixth-round draft pick that year while the Falcons get Jefferson and a seventh-rounder. L.A. had been in contact with Jefferson’s agent about shopping the receiver and the player had been open to finding a new home in the league, which he now has with the Falcons. 

The 27-year-old was drafted by the Rams in 2020 out of Florida and has recently fallen out of the rotation in the passing game. In the Week 5 loss to the Eagles, Jefferson played just two offensive snaps, which coincides with the return of Kupp and the emergence of Nacua and 2021 second-round pick Tutu Atwell. That trio was clearly above Jefferson on the depth chart, so it makes sense that the Rams decided to move on and gain an asset for the receiver, who is in the final year of his rookie contract.

Jefferson’s best season in the league came in 2021 when he helped the club to a Super Bowl LVI title. During that regular season, he started in all 17 of his games played and caught 50 balls for 802 yards and six touchdowns. In the playoffs, he added nine more catches for 102 yards, including four receptions in that Super Bowl win over Cincinnati. 

Since then, his totals have decreased, and has just eight catches for 108 yards through five games played this season. 

Jefferson now joins a Falcons team that has Drake London, Mack Hollins and Scotty Miller headlining the receiver room. Tight ends Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith along with rookie running back Bijan Robinson also have been a key outlet in the passing game for second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder. 

Trade grades

Falcons: A

This is about as low risk, high reward trade for the Falcons. By moving down one round at the 2025 NFL Draft, Atlanta acquires a player who is a former second round pick, possesses down-the-field speed, and has prior success in the NFL with an 800-yard season under his belt. If Arthur Smith and the coaching staff can tap back into Jefferson’s potential, it could be end up being one heck of a pickup. After all, he is only 27. And if Jefferson doesn’t prove to be a player that fits in the system, he’s a free agent at the end of the year and it only cost you a few spots at the draft. A very worthwhile gamble for the Falcons. 

Rams: C

L.A. was never going to get a substantial return for Jefferson. He’s essentially a rental with him being in the final year of his rookie contract, but you’d think that they’d be able to possibly get a higher Day 3 selection without having to attach a future seventh onto Jefferson as part of the trade. The receiver does have special speed and did produce for a time in Sean McVay’s offense. A second guess would be if they should have waited a bit closer to the deadline to see if a more significant return sprouted up. In the end, however, they gain greater draft capital in return for a player that they likely would have let walk in free agency this offseason, which isn’t nothing. 

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