The Vikings Got Lucky with Their 2020 First-Round Selection of Justin Jefferson

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Feb 9, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, US; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson poses for a photo after receiving the award for AP Offensive Player during the NFL Honors award show at Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This is probably the most ‘duh, that’s obvious’ headline you’ll read all day. Of course the Vikings got lucky by finding one of the top wide receivers in the league as a direct result of trading Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills.

Let me explain why we’re discussing it, though. The Vikings selected former LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson with the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 Draft a little over three years ago. And now, he and the rest of that 2020 class are heading into their fourth NFL season this fall.

Tuesday was the deadline for the first-round picks from that draft class to have their fifth-year options extended. The Vikings made the no-brainer decision to opt into Jefferson’s option back on April 25th.

Vikings Got Lucky
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) looks on during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

However, if we look at the list of players who actually got their fifth-year options in this class, it’s a very short one. For example, Jalen Reagor, who was the 21st selection in that draft, had his option declined by the Vikings.

Reagor having his option declined means that out of the 28 eligible picks, 15 of them (if we count Jordan Love’s new contract as a fifth-year option) will not have their fifth-year picked up for 2024. That list includes the following players along with the picks used to draft them:

  • DE Chase Young (No. 2 overall)
  • LB Isaiah Simmons (No. 8 overall)
  • CB C.J. Henderson (No. 9 overall)
  • LT Mekhi Becton (No. 11 overall)
  • DT Javon Kinlaw (No. 14 overall)
  • OT Austin Jackson (No. 18 overall)
  • LB K’Lavon Chaisson (No. 20 overall)
  • WR Jalen Reagor (No. 21 overall)
  • LB Kenneth Murray (No. 23 overall)
  • C Cesar Ruiz (No. 24 overall)
  • LB Jordyn Brooks (No. 27 overall)
  • LB Patrick Queen (No. 28 overall)
  • CB Noah Igbinoghene (No. 30 overall)
  • RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (No. 32 overall)
Questions Answered: Yay or Nay on Chase Young, Dalvin Tomlinson, Lewis Cine in 2023
Sep 25, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders defensive end Chase Young. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports.

CB Jeff Okudah (No. 3 overall by the Lions) was traded to the Atlanta Falcons, and while a trade alone wouldn’t make him ineligible (Reagor remained eligible despite being traded from the Eagles to the Vikings), he had a portion of his contract picked up by Detroit, so that’s where the problems lie with his eligibility.

WR Henry Ruggs III (No. 12 overall by the Raiders), CB Damon Arnette (No. 19 overall by the Raiders), and OT Isaiah Wilson (No. 29 overall by the Titans) cannot receive the fifth-year option because they have been out of the NFL since the conclusion of the 2021 season (Wilson hasn’t played since 2020). And finally, Jeff Gladney (No. 31 overall by the Vikings) passed away in a car accident back in May 2022.

So, with all that taken into account, of the 13 players that had their fifth-year options picked up, only nine of them were non-QBs. There were only two players selected between Nos. 18-32 to have their options picked up as well. Those two were Jefferson and 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk.

Feb 9, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, US; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson poses for a photo after receiving the award for AP Offensive Player during the NFL Honors award show at Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Simply put, there was a huge chance of a non-QB being selected in the first-round of the 2020 Draft not working out. Instead, the Vikings not only found a consistent starter worth accepting this option, but the $19.7 million that Minnesota will pay Jefferson in 2024 is going to be considered a bargain, assuming the reigning Offensive Player of the Year continues to perform at an All-Pro level.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.