Rookie Report Card: Rhamondre Stevenson and Jermar Jefferson

Dan Meylor

Each week throughout the season, I’ll cover at least two rookies in the Rookie Report Card and try to always include the biggest performers from that particular week. On top of reviewing my expectations for each player coming into the league and how well he’s lived up to those expectations at the NFL level to this point, I’ll grade the player in three categories. Those categories are performance to date, rookie season potential and long-term upside.

The series continues as we highlight a pair of rookie tailbacks, Rhamondre Stevenson and Jermar Jefferson.

Rhamondre Stevenson, RB NE

Week 10 Stats: 20 carries, 100 yards, two touchdowns, four receptions, 14 yards (five targets)

At no matter what level, rushing for more than 2,100 yards and 16 touchdowns in 11 college games is going to catch the attention of nearly everybody. That’s exactly what Stevenson did at Cerritos College in 2018. After transferring to Oklahoma, he shared time in the Sooners’ backfield for two seasons, grinding out 1,180 yards on 165 carries (7.2 YPC) and 13 touchdowns.

A powerful runner between the tackles, Stevenson punished Big 12 defenders on nearly every carry. Proving to be nearly impossible to take down with a single defender, he sought out contact and made defenders pay for meeting him in a running lane. Especially effective going downhill, he profiled throughout the NFL Draft process as a thumper who could contribute as an outlet pass-catcher.

Although there were some in the dynasty community who were beating the drum for Stevenson as a three-down runner, I was hesitant to even invest a third-round rookie pick in a one-dimensional downhill runner who appeared to lack the patience and change of direction ability to cut back or slide into an off-script running lane.

In limited opportunities as a rookie however, none of those weaknesses have seemed to matter much – according to the box score.

Bouncing back and forth between being active and a healthy scratch on game day, Stevenson has been effective both as a runner and a receiver in his first six games as a pro. With Damien Harris sidelined due to a concussion in week ten against the Browns though, he got the lion’s share of the workload – churning out 100 yards and two scores on 20 carries and catching four check-downs in the passing game.

Easily his biggest game, Stevenson ran hard in an ideal game script to succeed. He ran with power and balance throughout the game, routinely dragging would-be tacklers for extra yardage. Effective on the perimeter as well as between the tackles, his first touchdown came on a well-blocked pitch to the left where he cut behind his pulling blockers and got his shoulder pads parallel to the line of scrimmage before slamming into the end zone. He also had an 18-yard gain on a pitch play where after some misdirection by the offense he outran the linebackers to the corner on a third and short.

Despite those perimeter runs it was clear to all watching the game that Stevenson was most effective on dives and draws where he could get behind his pads and run through arm tackles. The Patriots’ offense opened up running lane after running lane for him and he turned in an excellent performance.

But watching every carry he had on Sunday against Cleveland, there were multiple runs where he hit the hole and ran directly into blockers at the second level – as if he either didn’t see them or couldn’t make a cut at full speed to avoid them.

With around five minutes left in the first quarter, Stevenson took a well-blocked draw play through the hole and instead of cutting behind a beautiful double-team block by center David Andrews and wide receiver N’Keal Harry, he ran up Andrews’ back. Again, with two minutes left in the first half he ran off right guard, got to the second level and ran directly into the back of wideout Kendrick Bourne.

Both plays were successful, gaining 10-plus yards on each, but are perfect examples of why many – myself included – saw limited fantasy upside in Stevenson during draft season.

None of that seemed to matter on Sunday however as Stevenson finished as a top-five fantasy running back for the week regardless of scoring system. Personally, I’d try to sell him coming off that performance, however.

In my eyes, Stevenson is the reincarnation of former Packers and Steelers tailback Najeh Davenport. Big and powerful with enough quickness to explode through a hole, Davenport was a solid NFL backup and excellent option to finish off a tired defense, but his lack of vision and elusiveness kept him from ever becoming a long-term fantasy stud.

Especially in New England where they like to rotate through tailbacks more than any other franchise, I can’t trust Stevenson. I’ll happily sell him for a second-round rookie pick or similarly-valued player with upside after what may end up being his best career game.

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Jermar Jefferson, RB DET

Week 10 Stats: three carries, 41 yards, one touchdown

In three seasons at Oregon State, Jefferson carved out a reputation as a grinding, physical runner with a knack for hitting developing rushing lanes on time. He made a killing as a one-cut runner, wearing down defenses at the point of attack and finishing runs with authority.

Despite running for nearly 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns as a freshman and shortened but productive sophomore and junior seasons, Jefferson entered the 2021 NFL Draft as a mid-to-late round prospect due to below-average speed for an outside zone tailback (4.55-second 40-yard dash) and limited skills in the passing game.

When Jefferson was picked by the Lions with the third-to-last selection in the draft, very few dynasty managers remained very interested. After all, he was buried behind D’Andre Swift and newly signed Jamaal Williams on the depth chart. Regularly falling to the fourth round of rookie drafts, Jefferson was on waiver wires in shallow dynasty leagues throughout the pre-season.

After being a gameday inactive for much of the first half of his rookie season, Jefferson got his first real taste of NFL action in week eight against the Eagles when playing just 11 snaps, he touched the ball six times – carrying twice for six yards and a touchdown while also catching four passes for 23 yards. His touchdown came on a nine-yard run up the middle.

In Sunday’s tie against the Steelers, he made a similar impact. In just three snaps, he carried the ball on all three for 41 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown run. Again, Jefferson’s touchdown came on a run up the middle where he simply blasted through a hole and split the safeties for the score. Unfortunately, however, trainers checked out his left ankle after the play and he left on a cart and didn’t return.

At this point, it appears Jefferson will miss time with his injury but it’s safe to say he’s made his mark after touching the ball on nine of 14 snaps and scoring twice. While most of his damage has been done right up the middle and all of it has been done on plays that were well blocked, it’s encouraging to see the late-round prospect make the most of his opportunities and at the very least, he appears to not be in over his head playing on Sundays.

Overall, the jury is still out on Jefferson but he should absolutely be rostered in dynasty leagues. At the very least, he appears to be a player to monitor closely despite Swift’s elite status and Williams’ contract which doesn’t expire until after next season.

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dan meylor
Rookie Report Card: Rhamondre Stevenson and Jermar Jefferson