Replacing Justin Jefferson with a Rookie? One Report Suggests It Was a Possibility

Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates his touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, one of the major remaining tasks for the Minnesota Vikings revolves around the contract of star wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

Jefferson obviously has been one of the major pieces of the Vikings offense for the past four seasons, breaking plenty of records along the way. However, he is now entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract and has not signed a long-term extension yet.

Apparently, the Vikings may have had an entirely separate plan in place in the draft. That reported plan actually included trading up for a receiver, not a quarterback, and dealing away their star receiver.

The Reported Justin Jefferson Replacement Plan

Justin Jefferson
Oct 8, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

That plan was reported by Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press, who laid out a scenario where the Vikings would have replaced their own LSU product, Jefferson, with another LSU receiver, Malik Nabers.

“There was buzz at draft time that the Vikings wanted to move from No. 11 to No. 5, not to pick a QB but to get LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers, who was picked No. 6 by the Giants. Had that trade occurred, Jefferson would have been traded and Nabers would have been the No. 1 receiver,” according to Walters.

Of course, “buzz” doesn’t necessarily equate to a deal being imminent or even a real interest from the Vikings. And, obviously, no such trade happened as the Vikings instead moved up for a quarterback, selecting J.J. McCarthy with the 10th overall pick.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates his touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

It would appear, though, that Minnesota at least put the idea out into the NFL universe that they could be a team interested in selecting one of the top wide receivers in this class, assuming Walters’ sources are correct.

It still seems as if the Vikings simply utilized this strategy as a smokescreen if they did so at all, similarly to how the New York Giants put out the idea that they would be interested in a top QB in this year’s draft class.

The supporting evidence is two-fold. Firstly, the Vikings didn’t select a wide receiver at all during this draft, thus indicating that they feel very confident in their current group moving forward. Secondly, the Vikings also held the 23rd overall pick in the draft where they could have selected a number of talented receivers (Brian Thomas Jr., Adonai Mitchell, etc.), but instead, they traded up to 17th overall with the Jacksonville Jaguars where they selected Dallas Turner. Jacksonville then landed Thomas at No. 23.

Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) catches a touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Mullens (not pictured) as Detroit Lions cornerback Cameron Sutton (1) defends during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimately, Vikings fans should still hold out faith that a contract extension will get done with Jefferson as both Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have continued to suggest. Everyone will simply need to remain patient that it will work itself out in the coming weeks.


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.

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