When asked following the completion of the NFL Draft earlier this month if there was a player he was surprised was still on the board when Detroit was on the clock, the first name Lions general manager Brad Holmes talked about was seventh-round pick Jermar Jefferson.
"When we made the trade (to move up in the fourth round to select Derrick Barnes) and got (selection) 257, I believe it was. I didn't really think that he would still be on the board," Holmes said. "So, we were very, very happy about him."
Jefferson was the ninth best running back available in the draft, as ranked by The Athletic, and was projected to be a fourth or fifth-round pick. But the Lions got him at the end of the seventh round.
Jefferson averaged 5.7 yards per carry over a three-year career at Oregon State and showed some explosiveness (runs of 65, 75 and 82 yards in a two-game stretch in 2020) in the process. He also showed an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield with 43 receptions and only two drops over his collegiate career.
Jefferson got the bulk of the work in the backfield in last Sunday's open rookie minicamp. He displayed some elusiveness in the hole, quick feet and an ability to get small and run behind his blockers.
He has an opportunity to carve out a role as the third back behind D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams in Detroit's backfield after the team released veteran Kerryon Johnson following the draft. That may speak to just how much the Lions like Jefferson's potential.
Jefferson spoke after the Lions selected him on the third day of the draft and said he was disappointed about being drafted so late, and how he planned to carry some of that motivation into Lions camp.
"Just keeping that chip on my shoulder and just knowing that I've got something to prove," Jefferson said after the conclusion of rookie minicamp when asked again about his seventh-round selection.
It's a good situation in Detroit for Jefferson with the experience he has in front of him in Swift and Williams. He's expected to be a role player on offense and a contributor on special teams.
Jefferson said he loves everything about the NFL grind so far and the process of trying to carve out role as a rookie. He's excited to join the veterans and see where he stacks up. He has a ton of respect for former NFL running back turned Lions assistant head coach and running backs coach Duce Staley.
"I think he's a great coach," Jefferson said of Staley. "He has a great sense of humor and not always serious all the time. I feel like that's what keeps the room more energized. He loves football and cares about his players.
"While I've been here (for rookie minicamp) I've learned a lot from him such as pass protection and run reads and fronts and different things like that. He's a great coach."
We'll see where Jefferson starts to fit into the mix in Detroit's backfield when he hits the field with the veterans in the coming weeks and months.