LSU’s Justin Jefferson declares for NFL draft after ‘perfect year’

LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson poses during media day for NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in New Orleans. Clemson is scheduled to play LSU on Monday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip).

LSU star receiver Justin Jefferson is declaring for the NFL draft, he told Yahoo Sports in a phone interview. 

Jefferson just completed a junior season where he helped lead LSU, where his older brothers played, to a 15-0 season and the school’s first national title in more than a decade. 

Jefferson put up monster numbers for LSU, catching 111 balls for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. He balled out in the College Football Playoff title game as well, catching nine passes from Joe Burrow for 106 yards and making one of the night’s viral highlights with a stop-and-go move that juked a Clemson defender to the ground. 

“We just had a perfect year,” Jefferson said. “We won the national championship and set records. We had a lot of awards and did it with our team. I feel like it was the best way to go.” 

LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson is tackled by Clemson safety K'Von Wallace during the second half of a NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Jefferson leaves LSU after three seasons and a remarkable rise from a two-star prospect to the top end of a draft class that may ultimately be defined by wide receiver depth. He leaves as LSU’s single-season record holder for catches, as his 111 catches smashed the LSU mark and put him third in SEC history. 

Jefferson projects somewhere between the late first round and the second, as his natural instincts, hands and route running are intriguing to NFL teams. He projects as a bigger slot receiver, as his savvy in the red zone and ability to create separation have stood out. 

Jefferson’s 40-time at the NFL scouting combine will be watched closely by NFL teams. As will his ability to put some muscle on his 6-foot-3, 192-pound frame. Still, his production, talent and ability to consistently thrive against top competition will make him coveted. 

“My production was where it needed to be the last two years to be able to come out,” Jefferson said in a phone interview with Yahoo Sports. “I feel like I’m ready for the NFL.” 

Jefferson’s family has deep ties to LSU. Both of his brothers, Jordan Jefferson (quarterback) and Rickey Jefferson (defensive back), were prominent players for the Tigers. Justin began hanging around the Tiger program more than a decade ago and grew up in Tiger Stadium. 

“LSU took me under their arms and practically raised me,” Justin Jefferson said. “Being in this situation now and seeing myself leaving LSU, I’m definitely grateful for the coaches and fans, and especially my teammates for being there with me. I’m definitely going to miss it. The staff and everyone in that building was great.”

Justin Jefferson learned from the highlights and mistakes of his older brothers, who have supported him along the way and are proud to brag on his success. 

“It puts the icing on the cake,” said Jordan Jefferson, who is a graduate assistant at Colorado State. “Seeing how Justin has performed, it points to him being very observant and disciplined toward his craft. It’s easy to be the third brother and get complacent. He came to LSU wanting to prove a statement and maintain the Jefferson legacy. To see him at the pinnacle that he’s at is amazing.”

John Jefferson, the father of the boys, lauded LSU coach Ed Orgeron for keeping his word to hold onto a scholarship for Justin, who was lightly recruited out of high school. gave him two stars, and he had few other offers. 

“I commend Coach Orgeron for coming through and offering him a scholarship,” John Jefferson said. “He told us, ‘If he takes care of business, we’re going to save a scholarship for him.’

“We love all the coaches. They’re family to us. We thank them a lot.”  

The coda of Jefferson brothers is now complete. What began with Jordan committing to LSU in 2008 ended in a hail of confetti for Justin on Monday night. Now, the receiver who is known as “J Jets” on social media is taking off to the next level.

“We always prophesized that he was going to be the best one,” said Rickey Jefferson, a free-agent NFL defensive back who played at LSU from 2013-16. “For him to show that and wear that last name and go after his dreams and show true grit, it’s been a beautiful thing. My family is forever indebted to LSU, the coaches, staff and people who make it what it is today. It’s the best program in the nation.” 

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