INDIANAPOLIS — Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to tell which wide receiver position a player plays, just judging by their height and weight.
The tallest and strongest receivers play split end, or the X position, on the line of scrimmage and farthest from the football. Their size is important because they have no buffer before contact with a defensive back from the line of scrimmage.
The shortest receivers typically are slot receivers, or the Y position, and they line up off the line of scrimmage closer in to the formation. Their proximity to the quarterback can ameliorate the issues that short stature can cause on the outside. Flankers (Z) are the middle of the road guys.
There are exceptions, but for as long as there have been three-receiver sets, that’s been the basic mold.
LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson is trying to break that mold. Jefferson, who measured in at the 2020 NFL Combine at 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds with a 33-inch wingspan, but he was most dangerous for the national champion Tigers when lining up in the slot.
At the combine, Jefferson is trying to convince teams that he can be that kind of player at the next level, as well. He said the way to prove that is with quickness, but not necessarily straight-line speed.
“A lot of tall people are not as quick as the shorter, slot receivers, but you know me, I’m quick and I’m tall,” Jefferson said Tuesday. “That just helps my game, being able to get open in the slot. … I don’t have a specific position in the NFL. That’s just ways to get on the field faster, inside or outside.”
But the slot is the place where Jefferson really earned his reputation as one of the top talents in the deep 2020 draft class.
“Slot, I feel like that’s the moneymakers,” he said. “That’s the time where you’re able to get in open space and make those big plays and show that you’re a good receiver with the ball in your hands.”
In a normal year, Jefferson would likely be a first-round draft pick, but there may be more talented receivers than teams with a need or desire to take one in the first 32 selections. If Jefferson slides into the second round, the Steelers could be interested.