Justin Jefferson of LSU knows that the 2019 NFL season was another case of “close, but no cigar” for the New Orleans Saints. While the team was terrific in the regular season, posting a 13-3 record, things went south in a first-round loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Quarterback Drew Brees has re-upped on a two-year, $50 million contract. As a unit, New Orleans is still a contender.
With that said, there are a few areas for improvement. Head coach Sean Payton has done a good job getting the most out of the talent general manager Mickey Loomis has surrounded him with. As long as Brees is on the team, Super Bowl-or-bust is the expectation for “Who Dat” nation.
The Saints currently have the No. 24 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. There’s been some buzz about what position the team will make a pick at, but linebacker and wide receiver have garnered most of it. Both Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray would make excellent selections there, but what if Brees gets another weapon to work with? LSU’s Justin Jefferson makes a lot of sense.
Jefferson, a hometown kid and a national champion this past season with the Tigers, is a 6-foot-1, 202-pound wideout that spent a lot of time in the slot. He doesn’t have blazing speed and will need to refine his route running in order to reach his ultimate ceiling in the NFL but after recording 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns a season ago, the production is hard to argue with.
Aside from Jefferson’s role at LSU in a scheme built to maximize spacing for wide receivers, 2019 was also his only season with 1,000-plus receiving yards. Could part of his video game-like numbers have been a byproduct of the best quarterback in college football? Sure, but he’s still a great prospect.
New Orleans recently signed veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders to a two-year deal, providing Brees with a toy to play with outside of star Michael Thomas. Tre’Quan Smith has flashed potential in the past but is far from a sure thing as the team’s third-best receiver. Jefferson could step in and fulfill that role as soon as his rookie season begins.
After a year or two in the offense, Jefferson could take over for Sanders and leave the Saints’ heir to Brees with at least a pair of great pass catchers. The pick makes a lot of sense for both the present and the future, as having someone to take pressure off Thomas and complement Sanders would open up a lot of doors for one of the NFL’s most potent offenses.
Assuming both Queen and Murray are off the board at 24, or the Saints don’t want either of them, taking Justin Jefferson would be a feel-good story with on-field results as early as year one. He’s got a great catch radius and would benefit from playing with one of the most accurate field generals of all-time. Should the franchise pull the trigger, it wouldn’t regret the decision.