The Los Angeles Rams traded Brandin Cooks this offseason to the Houston Texans. Is 2020 NFL Draft pick Van Jefferson an upgrade as a rookie?
The Los Angeles Rams, fresh off of a very disappointing 9-7 third-place finish in the NFC West, had a little bit of a purge in the 2020 offseason.
In fact, the Rams are low-key one of the most different looking teams in the NFL compared to last year.
The Rams changed uniforms. They swapped out defensive coordinator Wade Phillips for a Vic Fangio disciple in Brandon Staley. They even released Todd Gurley…
Among all of the major changes the Rams made to their coaching and player roster was the trade of wide receiver Brandin Cooks, apparently one of the most desirable players in the NFL but also one of the easiest to trade.
Cooks is only entering his age 27 season in the NFL but he’s already playing for his fourth team, and he’s already got over 1,000 yards for each of his first three teams. He has twice been traded for first-round picks, and this time around, the Rams got a second-round pick for him.
Only one player in NFL history (modern history, at least) has been traded more times than Cooks, and that’s former running back Eric Dickerson, who was traded four times.
The Rams shipped Cooks off to the Houston Texans and with the selection they received (57th overall) they took Florida’s Van Jefferson.
Jefferson is an NFL legacy player, the son of former pro receiver Shawn Jefferson who is currently the receivers coach with the New York Jets. Because of the Jets’ desperate need for receivers, it seemed obvious they would take Jefferson’s kid, but it never happened.
The Rams made a direct trade — Cooks for Jefferson. Was it an upgrade?
Despite the fact that Cooks has been an effective playmaker in his six NFL seasons, his catch percentage has consistently been under 70 percent since his rookie year in New Orleans, and the Rams needed a player who could provide more than just a vertical threat.
Cooks has been known in his time in the NFL for being a burner down the field, but certainly not for being much of a possession type of receiver.
In Jefferson, the Rams may have gotten a little bit of both.
While Jefferson wasn’t revered in the pre-draft process for his speed, he showed it off at the 2020 Senior Bowl.
That is a pretty surprising figure for Jefferson, who was more well-known in the pre-draft process for his route running than speed.
Jefferson enters into the NFL with a better understanding of how to handle multiple types of NFL-caliber coverage compared to other receivers coming out who are constantly facing off coverage. He is a man coverage beater who apparently can turn on the jets.
With Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods capable of handling the short-intermediate parts of the field as well, Jefferson should fit right in as a high-impact rookie with this Rams offense looking to bounce back from the 2019 season in which Jared Goff threw 16 interceptions.
As far as proven NFL experience, there’s no doubt the Houston Texans got the ‘sure thing’ in this trade, but the Rams may have upgraded their overall position group by adding a player whose skill set is much more versatile on the whole and who can also take the top off of a defense with long speed if need be.