According to Next Gen Stats, Justin Jefferson is Being Underrated

Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen
Sep 27, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) in the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The folks over at Next Gen Stats put out some really interesting stuff. One thing that caught my eye was their list of 5 underrated Sunday performances, especially since it featured Justin Jefferson at #3.

They begin by noting that he caught all four of his targets when Seattle tried to use press coverage. It’s not surprising that this strategy failed; Jefferson’s release off the line of scrimmage is very, very good. I don’t know if he’s as good as Davante Adams in this regard, but he isn’t far behind. The video goes on to explain some other notable statistics from Jefferson’s Sunday performance: “He was also 6/7 for 98 yards on open targets, meaning targets where he had at least 3 yards of separation. Jefferson’s route-running ability created a mismatch that Kirk Cousins exploited.”

Therein lies the key, folks: football is a matchup sport. When Player A is clearly superior to Player B, the smart coach will ensure they repeatedly look toward Player A. On Sunday, Lil’Kub did precisely that with Jefferson. Three yards of separation is a ton in the NFL, suggesting Jefferson had essentially no issue with getting room on the field.

Jefferson is among the NFL’s preeminent receivers. We all knew this following his sensational rookie season, one that featured 1400 receiving yards (a record) and 7 TDs. I had some concerns about a sophomore slump, and his opening couple games weren’t particularly inspiring. His Week 3 game put my concerns to rest. After three games, Jefferson has 20 catches, 254 yards, and 2 TDs. He is even 1/1 on passes, an 11-yard throw to K.J. Osborn.

In the past, Minnesota’s skill players performed really poorly against the Seahawks. That trend was largely overturned, as Jefferson’s performance demonstrates.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of Jefferson’s game, at least from my perspective, was how tough he was following the catch. He consistently demonstrated a desire to pick up extra yards. He did so by not only showing off his speed, but also his toughness. When defenders get near, Jefferson secures the ball, lowers his shoulder, and starts driving his legs. That kind of effort matters, especially when it’s coming from a star receiver.

Moving forward, defenses will continue trying to find ways to slow Jefferson. Seattle just doesn’t have the talent to keep up. Other teams will be able to put forth stronger options in the secondary. When that does happen, expect other players – Thielen, Osborn, Conklin – to succeed because Jefferson is getting so much attention.