The Minnesota Vikings Have the NFL’s Best Red Zone Duo

Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The NFL season is right around the corner, and PFF has been putting out every list imaginable to get ready. This time, it’s a ranking of the best red zone wide receivers based on 2021 grades in that area of the field. The list was put together by Bryant Horn, and wouldn’t you know it, the Vikings duo of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson rank among the very best in the NFL near the goal line at the wide receiver position. Here’s the breakdown of the top-10:

  1. DK Metcalf (87.9)
  2. Adam Thielen (84.3)
  3. Cooper Kupp (83.5)
  4. DeAndre Hopkins (79.9)
  5. Davante Adams (78.4)
  6. Justin Jefferson (77.6)
  7. Hunter Renfrow (77.2)
  8. Braxton Berrios (73.9)
  9. Amon-Ra St. Brown (73.6)
  10. DeAndre Carter (73.5)

By going through this rankings, the Vikings are one of two teams to have a duo inside this top-10 going into the 2022 season. The other team is the Las Vegas Raiders, who employ both Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow, though Adams ranking comes from his production with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The Vikings duo of Thielen and Jefferson are also the only duo in the entire league to rank inside the top-6.

Thielen’s placement at No. 2 isn’t surprising in the least. Since the start of 2020, he is tied for the third-most receiving touchdowns in the NFL alongside Tyreek Hill. 22 of those touchdowns for the soon-to-be 32-year-old receiver have come inside the red zone. Here is what Horn had to say about Thielen’s production in this area of the field:

Thielen led the top-25 graded receivers by catching 86.7% of his 15 red-zone targets. He also found the end zone nine times and was among 10 players who caught 100.0% of their catchable targets.

Bryan Horn on Adam Thielen

Thielen’s presence in the red zone is something that cannot truly be replaced, but some might be surprised to see Justin Jefferson rank so highly on this list. After a rookie season in which he recorded seven touchdowns, and just four inside the 20, I called his red zone production the only weak point in his game.

Then, he went ahead and eliminated that criticism in year two. Without Kyle Rudolph on the team, and a few games without Thielen down the stretch of the year, Jefferson not only put up over 1600 yards but also recorded 10 touchdowns.

Jefferson’s skills near the goal-line may not be the first thought when describing the explosive receiver, but his production is wisely rewarded here. Jefferson nearly doubled his red zone TDs with seven last year for the Vikings, and we could be in for even more scores in 2022. Here is what Horn had to say about Jefferson:

The LSU product caught 91.7% of his catchable targets and 71.4% of his open targets for 101 yards and seven touchdowns. Jefferson caught 52.4% of his 21 overall red-zone targets, which ranked 23rd of 25.

Bryan Horn on Justin Jefferson

If it wasn’t already clear that the Vikings have a dynamic duo at all parts of the field, it should be now. Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are truly two of the best receivers in the NFL, and sights should be set high for 2022.