Player Spotlight Five: Justin Jefferson; Best In The League?

October 23, 2022
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Justin Jefferson has made headline after headline since entering the league in 2020. It may seem redundant to do a spotlight on Jefferson, but since I’m trying not to take this elite player for granted, let’s take a look at what makes him one of the best.

Justin Jefferson, The LSU Tiger

Justin Jefferson was an LSU Tiger for three seasons. He only played two games as a freshman in 2017, but would then log 13 and 15 games in 2018 and 2019, respectively. His 2019 season was one of elite production that led him to being the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

In 2019, Jefferson led both the SEC and NCAA in receptions with 111. He also finished second in receiving touchdowns with 18. He was the third SEC wide receiver taken in the 2020 draft after Alabama’s Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy, and he was the fifth wide receiver taken in the first round. Dallas WR CeeDee Lamb and new teammate Jalen Reagor were both taken before Justin Jefferson. Needless to say, while Lamb has been an up-and-coming star, Jefferson is clearly the best NFL player out of this bunch. After dominating the SEC, Jefferson fortunately came to the Vikings and is now dominating the NFL.

Top Production Already In The NFL

Last season Jefferson surpassed Odell Beckham, Jr. for the most receiving yards across a player’s first two seasons. What makes this more impressive is that Randy Moss and Jerry Rice are third and fourth on this list. Before the start of this season, Justin Jefferson also led the NFL in receiving yards since he entered the league in 2020. Also since 2020, Jefferson led the league in career yards-per-catch average with 15.4 at the start of this season.

In addition to moving up the league-wide record books, Jefferson has already made his mark on the Vikings’ history. Last season, Jefferson nearly broke Randy Moss’ single-season receiving record with 1,616 yards, just 32 yards less than Moss’ record of 1,632 set in 2003. He ranks 12th all-time in receiving yardage as a Viking, and could conceivably be in the top ten by the season’s end. We could spend all day swooning over Jefferson’s numerous impressive stats, but the point is, he is going to be one of the best, and I want to savor every season we get to have him in purple.

A Winner’s Mentality

Like all great players, success and production don’t come to fruition based on talent and opportunity alone. Jefferson has the mentality to win and is willing to do what it takes for the team. He knows that his success will be greater if the team itself can win games. He is a willing and capable blocker, and he definitely doesn’t quit on plays.

The most fun I had this weekend was searching into Twitter “Justin Jefferson Windmill Block” to relive this epic moment! It was definitely good for some laughs as well, but I loved seeing him fly down there to try and help Dalvin.

The Complete Receiver

And then, of course, we all know that he can best help the team by getting the ball. He is a complete receiver with great hands and great speed. But my personal favorite trait of his is his yards-after-catch. He ranks fifth so far this season with 295. This is a great ranking regardless, but I mainly like how he is always able to fall forward, slip through defenders, and seemingly always gain the extra yard. In perhaps what is my favorite Justin Jefferson game, here are his highlights from last season’s matchup against the Chargers, where you can see all of his top-tier receiver traits on display.

I encourage you to specifically review the catch he made to convert a third down in the fourth quarter. I remember watching this; the Vikings were up seven and needed to sustain a drive to eat up some clock. The catch he makes by the sideline is absurd, and to make that catch in crunch time is exactly what an all-time great receiver would do; he is well on his way to becoming one.

Effective As A Threat

As with all breakout stars (especially on teams I cheer for), I am immediately worried for when the league “figures” them out. Thankfully, Jefferson has bucked this trend for the time being. He is a great route runner, and Kirk Cousins knows that he can trust JJ to make catches in traffic.

Further, I think new coach Kevin O’Connell is doing a great job of maximizing Jefferson’s ability in the passing game. I love seeing all of the crossing routes with Adam Thielen to get him open in space. I also like using him on jet sweeps, and even as a quarterback every so often. Last, the prevalence of pre-snap motion allows the Vikings to line Jefferson up everywhere. We for sure need to have a balanced offense, but he can and should be the number one option going into each and every drive until further notice.

The Griddy

Of course you can’t mention Justin Jefferson without mentioning the pioneer of the international dance craze, “The Griddy.” I can say international thanks to this tweet of his highlights from Week 4 in London against the Saints.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that if he was on a rival team, I would be much less impressed with a touchdown dance. That said, I like its uniqueness, I like that it has made other players attempt (and also fail) the dance themselves, and naturally I like how often I see it, because JJ is no stranger to the endzone.

Extend At All Costs!

This discussion doesn’t necessarily need to start now, but I want to go on record saying that I hope we sign him for the majority of his career. He is currently in year three of a four-year contract worth just north of 13 million dollars, and I think it’s quite obvious that the Vikings plan to, at the bare minimum, pick up his fifth year option.

As it stands, then, Jefferson would become an unrestricted free agent in 2025. And in a time where players are (rightfully so) quicker to advocate for themselves and what compensation they deserve, I want the Vikings to get a deal done before it gets ugly. I don’t anticipate it getting ugly, but just in case, we should prepare an offer that shows our commitment to the best receiver in football.

I Could Go On

And on, and on, and on, but I won’t. Anyone who has seen Justin Jefferson play can sense the greatness. Again, I chose this spotlight as a way to make an effort not to take this for granted, because I think we are witnessing one of the best of all-time.

But I would love to hear what your favorite Jefferson highlights are! Let me know, @Jlime8 on Twitter. You can also follow the whole group on Twitter, and be sure to check out The Daily Skol podcast on Spotify. Then, stay tuned for more great content as the Vikings finish with their bye week and get back to business. Oh, and one more thing, the Packers lost, so there’s that.

SKOL!