Rookie NFL Receivers Will Need What Justin Jefferson Has

By Will Cinelli on May 6, 2021

A ton of wide receivers were drafted last week during the NFL draft. Which of them will be successful? Obviously, we don’t know for sure, but one trait that is common across most of the NFL success stories at WR is the ability to separate from defenders.

Separation can happen in many ways, too, whether that’s getting in and out of breaks with precision, using strength and physicality to create space, or just being so darn fast that you can run away from defenders.

Last year’s biggest rookie sensation at the WR position was Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson. In this clip, we’ll watch him create separation by running a nice route on a double-move that leverages some veteran route-running tricks along with some high-level physical traits.

Jefferson is running a post-corner route here. The key to any double-move route is that the WR has to sell the first part of the route. The DB must buy what Jefferson is selling here, or the route is dead. He attacks the leverage he would take on a post, getting inside position on the DB before breaking to the post. As he breaks, he takes two hard steps to the post.

Often, inexperienced receivers will shorten their strides to try to get to the second part of the route too quickly and give away their intentions to well-coached DB’s. But not Jefferson. He sells the route with his feet and his eyes, as he looks back to the QB as if he’s about to receive the ball. This tricks the DB into attacking Jefferson’s route even more aggressively in case the ball is thrown to the post.

Now, on his third step, Jefferson is ready to break back toward the corner. To make this cut effectively requires good change of direction ability and suddenness. With the film slowed down, you can really see Jefferson’s body control and how he gets into and out of the break with little wasted motion.

Such a sharp cut with no warning makes it next to impossible for the DB to react quickly enough to stay with the WR, so he reaches out and grabs hold of Jefferson’s jersey. But credit Jefferson here for continuing to work through the contact and pull himself out of the clutches of the DB. He gets himself into the throwing lane for the QB. And with all that separation, the QB is more than willing to take that throw all day, as it’s an easy completion with the potential for more yardage after the catch.

I, for one, can’t wait to see which of the young WR’s in this draft class is able to blend their unique athletic traits with route-running savvy to get themselves open. 

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