Is Justin Jefferson Enough for the Vikings?
The Minnesota Vikings are currently witnessing one of the single greatest wide receiver seasons in history. Justin Jefferson has taken down multiple franchise records in 2022 and is still looking towards Calvin Johnson’s single-season record. Even in the midst of that type of production, it’s worth wondering if his contributions are enough on offense.
There’s no denying that the draw behind Minnesota landing a new head coach would be the skill position players penciled into the 53-man roster. Kevin O’Connell had to like what he would be working with coming from a high-powered Los Angeles Rams offense. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could’ve targeted wide receiver help in the draft, but coach Keenan McCardell implored him to look elsewhere. Fast forward to where we are now, and it may be time to take off the rose-colored glasses.
This may come as a surprise, but Justin Jefferson is good. Maybe the best, even. He’s one of those talents that doesn’t exist on every roster, and at his age, truly looks like something special. There is no denying any of that in Minnesota. The problem is what works around him.
For years, the Vikings have experienced the benefit of finding Adam Thielen as an undrafted gem. Coming from a Division II school and working his way into regular playing time, Thielen may be one of the best state success stories in some time. The problem is that he’s no longer young, and there is a significant amount of tread on his tires. To say the former Mankato product has lost a step this year would be putting it lightly. He doesn’t create the same separation, and for a guy who’s game is almost solely built on footwork and route-running, fading athleticism hits hard.
Behind Thielen is K.J. Osborn. Now in his third year, taken during the same draft as Jefferson, Osborn posted his first 100-yard game during Week 15 this season. His 157 yards helped to lead the Vikings back in the largest comeback ever seen. He then was immediately held to just 17 yards against the New York Giants before being used as a garbage time option against the Green Bay Packers. In other words, consistency hasn’t been something common from Minnesota’s third option.
Therein lies the problem when acquiring tight end T.J. Hockenson from the Detroit Lions. The Vikings were in the market for a pass catcher prior to the injury suffered by Irv Smith Jr. Certainly Hockenson is a massive comeup from the tight end they started the season with, and his place in the Pro Bowl has been well earned. However, his presence has simply replaced and expanded upon the role destined for Smith Jr. Minnesota didn’t add another option when acquiring Hockenson, they just upgraded one.
The question that the Vikings will need to answer this offseason is whether or not they believe the roster currently has a number two wide receiver. There was a time when Jefferson and Thielen presented that dynamic duo together. As Jefferson has grown, Thielen has aged, and the pendulum has swung backwards for Minnesota. In order to provide relief from opposing secondaries, the Vikings will almost certainly need another threat to help take some of the heat.
Maybe Odell Beckham Jr. could’ve helped the Vikings down the stretch this year, or maybe he would’ve been a distraction. Their interest in him makes sense however, as they look to spread the field and force opposing cornerbacks to respect all of their pass catchers. I wouldn’t think Minnesota will spend a first-round pick on a wide receiver in the upcoming draft, but some capital probably needs to be utilized that way.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.