Add Michael Jefferson to the list of successful FCS to FBS transfers. After beginning his college career at Alabama State, Jefferson became a monster at wide receiver for Louisiana.
Jefferson caught 69 passes for 1,291 yards and 11 touchdowns in two seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns, including a 51-catch, 810-yard, and seven-touchdown season in 2022. Jefferson could hear his name called in the 2023 NFL Draft thanks to his FBS production and impressive size.
It’s worth noting that Jefferson’s ability came out on big stages in 2022. He caught six passes for 50 yards against Troy, the Sun Belt champion. Jefferson snagged six balls for 60 yards against Florida State, which ended the 2022 season as one of the hottest teams in college football. Jefferson also caught a touchdown pass against the Seminoles, which was one of only two touchdowns the team scored against Florida State.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Jefferson certainly looks the part of an NFL wide receiver. He also has the speed that seemingly makes him a deep threat for an NFL squad.
Jefferson’s size is unique, and it makes him an intriguing draft pick. NFL teams covet athletic traits, and Jefferson being a tall wide receiver with good downfield ability makes him a possible draft selection. NFL teams love receivers who can make contested catches, using their size to shield away defensive backs. Jefferson does that well.
While at Louisiana, Jefferson did well to beat cornerbacks down the field. He’s capable of making big plays, which he showed consistently in two seasons at Louisiana.
At the same time, Jefferson’s production likely wasn’t enough to vault him into the first few rounds of the NFL Draft.
He only recorded three, 100-yard games while in college and never had a two-touchdown performance. That’s a picky critique of Jefferson, but for a wide receiver with significant athletic upside, it’s fair to wonder if he could’ve produced a little bit more against Group of Five competition.
One area where Jefferson could also improve is generating yards after the catch. While Jefferson does well to run by cornerbacks and get open for deep balls, he’s not quite as effective catching a shorter pass and turning the short completion into a longer gain by making players miss in space.
He has some limitations in regards to his agility, but Jefferson won’t be drafted with the expectation that he needs to become a No. 1 wide receiver. Given his ability as a red-zone target and his deep-play capability, Jefferson makes a ton of sense for teams seeking a third or fourth receiving option. He can certainly add depth to a team’s wide receiving unit, and he could excel in an offensive scheme that properly utilizes his ability to make plays down the field.
I’d love to see Jefferson join an explosive offense and work into the mix as a deep-play option early in his career. With quality coaching and time to develop, Jefferson could turn into a valuable asset for teams given his size and speed. He’s not the most polished wide receiver in the 2023 draft class, but he holds significant value as a late-round project.
Bennett Conlin is a college football contributor for HERO Sports, and he works full-time covering sports betting industry news and legislation for Sports Handle and US Bets.