In his early, high school years, AJ dominated the playing field in his home town of North Pike. Then, moving onto Mississippi State, AJ was hoping to play well enough to get noticed by NFL scouts. Fortunately, Coach Dan Mullan had some experience with helping his young stars get on the proverbial map, as he helped coach DT Fletcher Cox along which helped to vault him into the top tiers of talent in the NFL. Just for good measure, toss in Preston Smith and Chris Jones and you can see the program has been good at recruiting ends and this is good for AJ Jeffersons’ potential opportunity should be earn it.
Reviewing the Tape
Looking back at Jefferson last season left me feeling like I was on a teeter-totter, slowly swaying up and down. Some good plays and some bad plays. I wanted to see more plays where he would finish. Nevertheless, his stats were good (47 total tackles of which 13.5 went for a loss). You know that’s one of my favorite stats. Penetration is BIG and when you’re getting stops in enemy territory your getting those tackles for a loss bonus points but, you’re also around the QB which can lead to those sacks which is what gets us IDP’ers all fired up.
To Jefferson’s credit, his ability to move along the D-line is something positive and by extension, helps him stay on the field which in turn can help his team no matter the down or distance. Bottom line…stay on the field and you’re going to have more opportunities. However, I didn’t like the way Jefferson was getting off the blocks. For me, this is one of the more important skills for an end to implement into his arsenal. Using a bull rush is disruptive, but if you’re not going to be able to shed the block and make a play you’re not going to help out your fantasy owners. Although, looking at his quicks, I did like his ability to use a fast twitch burst, but didn’t see that closing burst to finish a play.
The Time is Now
Taking a closer look this season I like what I am seeing. To date, Jefferson has started the season off with 12 tackles of which 3 went for a loss along with 3 credited sacks. He is definitely taking it to players who are less skilled. Love that! However, can he stay consistent all season and bring it every snap? That’s the trait I will be looking for as the season progresses.
Excitable Note: When A.J. is over a Guard I get excited watching him use his hands to get leverage and then turn on the turbo to go get the Quarterback. Additionally, his strength is apparent and shows up often as well. Jefferson is certainly capable of shoving players at times and then make a play. Nevertheless, like with all young players, consistency will be key. Ultimately, coming off the edge he is quick with his first step and can use his hands to move into position to close on the QB. At the end of the day, his penetration shows well on film and when working from the goal line he is also able to get low and penetrate. I like that.
We have a long season left to go. I look forward to keeping an eye on him and want himself to play into a Senior Bowl invite. Should he make it to the NFL, I see him more as a 4-3 end. He likely won’t be a sideline to sideline player, but can win one-on-ones and be disruptive. Last season and rolling into this season Jefferson has shown steady improvement and we should certainly know by seasons end what his ceiling could be.
Thanks for reading! Hit me up anytime on Twitter at @DFF_JohnIDP.