When the 2013 NFL Draft came to a close, there were several NFL-caliber running backs left on the board. One of them was Nevada junior Stefphon Jefferson, who shortly after signed with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent.
It seems like a longshot that Jefferson could find a way onto the Titans roster considering their decent depth at the position, but it’s not completely out of the question either.
At this moment, the Titans currently have Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene and Jamie Harper as their top three running backs. Obviously, Johnson is entrenched as the starter seeing as he’s one of the league’s most dynamic runners. Greene was brought in this offseason to be the short-yardage back, and Harper fills the same role. Both are one-trick ponies, but Greene offers more as a backup and spot starter.
With Harper offering little beyond power at that No. 3 slot on the depth chart, there’s room for Jefferson to unseat him if he can display some of the playmaking that made him a star at Nevada.
In 2012, Jefferson was the Nevada offense. Throughout the year, No. 25 racked up 1,883 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns on 375 carries, averaging 5.02 yards per carry. He also hauled in 22 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown. In only 13 games, he amassed over 2,000 offensive yards, or 157.9 yards per game.
Despite his impressive production, there are some hang ups about Jefferson as a legitimate NFL running back.
Jefferson doesn’t offer up the ideal speed that teams expect from their running backs. During the 2013 NFL Combine, the Nevada product clocked a 4.68 40-yard time and wasn’t spectacular in agility drills. His elusiveness is also an issue, as Jefferson consistently failed to make the first defender miss due to his lack of agility.
Speed issues aside, Jefferson also struggles with technique as a runner. More often than not, he runs with a high pad level and doesn’t do a good job of avoid contacting or protecting the ball.
Regardless of all the negatives, Jefferson still brings plenty of positive to the table. He’s a reliable runner who consistently finds ways to pick up quality yards using his vision and patience. Although he lacks elite burst, he has a good initial explosion when the hole opens up. Considering how many carries he saw in 2012, there’s some upside in Jefferson when it comes to durability as well.
Jefferson is far from a homerun in terms of talent, but he has the overall skill set to push Harper for the No. 3 slot on the Titans’ depth chart. Harper is far from a complete package as well, so it’ll be up to the undrafted rookie to clean up his game and make the most of any opportunities the Titans present him.
Keep an eye out for Jefferson over the next few months.