In the seventh and final round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals selected TE D.C. Jefferson from Rutgers. The 6’6”, 260-pound tight end was the second off the radar (surprise) pick selected by the Redbirds, along with Earl Watford (4th round), previously mentioned in last Sunday’s wonderful player profile written by Aaron DeYoung.
Jefferson’s actual first name is Lequan, although his family calls him Darrell, his middle name. D.C. is a nickname from his high school days, because he resembles former NFL quarterback Daunte Culpepper. In what way does he resemble Culpepper, you may ask? Well, the 6’6” product out of Winter Haven, Florida, was a former quarterback in high school. In fact, coming out of high school, Jefferson was regarded as a top 20 QB in the nation and was recruited by Rutgers. He was initially projected to be their quarterback.
After red shirting his freshman year, D.C. was asked if he would make the transition to the tight end position. He respectfully accepted the position challenge, once mentioning in a prior interview that he would be willing to do anything to make the team better.
He quickly became a fixture in the starting line up as a tight end, starting 10 games. D.C. was primarily used as a blocking tight end and a good one at that, although he did have 5 catches for 108 yards. He then started 11 of 12 games his sophomore season, doubling his reception totals (10) while gaining 166 yards and a touchdown. He then played in every game the following year and starting 9 games, with 12 receptions for 118 yards. In his final season at Rutgers, Jefferson had 20 receptions for 168 yards and one TD.
So why did the Cardinals select him in the 7th round? Because from the outside looking in, his receiving totals definitely do not jump out at you during his four years at Rutgers. Well for one reason, he caught many talent evaluators by surprise with his talent and his performance at the East/West Shrine game.
Most evaluators knew D.C. was a solid blocker, but he also impressed with good foot quickness and decent hands. He is a very raw prospect that had to endure four different tight end coaches and three offensive coordinators. He also played for a team that did not seem to use the tight ends in the passing game much. Jefferson once answered that very question in an interview at Rutgers, stating, “Why would you throw to the tight ends when you have wide receivers that can run in the 4.3s to 4.4s that can catch the ball.”
Jefferson is a very raw prospect who the Arizona Cardinals see a ton of upside in. He is a solid and willing blocker with surprisingly quick feet and solid hands. He needs to improve his route running ability and body control in the passing game. Although he is an extremely big target at 6’6” and a good athlete, he will probably need to refine his skills on the practice squad for a year.
However, the Cardinals see a ton of upside in the tight end. It is my estimation that Jefferson will more than likely start his Cardinal career on the practice squad refining his skills. If he does make the 53-man roster this year he figures to be used primarily as a blocking tight end as he polishes his receiving skills. I will give the Cardinals a C for this selection, but Jefferson has the potential to prove me wrong in the future.