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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cameron DaSilva

Rams’ 23 most important players for 2023 – No. 11: WR Van Jefferson

The Rams showed some confidence in Van Jefferson this offseason when they traded away Allen Robinson, all but endorsing him as their No. 2 receiver behind Cooper Kupp. Like the rest of the team, his 2022 season was a forgettable one, playing only 11 games and finishing with only 369 yards receiving.

Entering the 2023 campaign, Jefferson has a lot to prove before hitting free agency next offseason. He could be poised for a big year now that the path to playing time is even clearer, making him a major part of the offense in L.A.

If he doesn’t step up, the Rams will be searching for other contributors at wide receiver.

2022 stats

(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
  • 11 games (9 starts)
  • 44 targets, 24 receptions, 369 yards, 3 TDs
  • 1 drop (PFF)
  • 76.8 passer rating when targeted (PFF)

Position group

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The only wide receiver ahead of Jefferson on the depth chart right now is Kupp. That hasn’t necessarily been the case in recent years when the Rams have had Robert Woods, Odell Beckham Jr. and Allen Robinson, so this is a big opportunity for the former Florida receiver.

As likely as it is that Jefferson will start the year as the No. 2 receiver, he still has a bunch of competitors to hold off this summer. Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, Puka Nacua, Demarcus Robinson and Tyler Johnson are all in the mix to play meaningful snaps this year, giving Matthew Stafford plenty of options.

Jefferson has the most experience and production of those players, and with this being a contract year for him, he has every reason to put together his best year yet. The competition will be fierce in camp, though, so he can’t have any missteps or injuries.

2023 outlook

(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Injuries limited Jefferson last year, causing him to miss six games; he didn’t play more than 53% of the snaps until Week 11. He underwent two knee procedures last year alone, which were the cause of his absence in the first half, but he should be fully healthy now.

The Rams need him to remain available as the No. 2 receiver opposite Kupp, playing as their field-stretcher on the outside while Kupp occupies the slot. Jefferson has good speed and while he’s not the best at the catch point, that’s an area where he can improve and become an even better receiver.

There will be more pressure on Jefferson to perform than ever before now that he’s the No. 2 option at wide receiver.

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