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In April, Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson hopped on Zach Gelb’s Radio Show and stated, “Every single person that picked a receiver instead of me are going to pay. I’m going to show them that I am the better receiver than the pick that they had.” Of course, this got loads of scrutiny, and many were ready to pronounce him a bust – the ‘next Josh Rosen.’ 

But Jefferson is everything but a bust. Now, Justin Jefferson leads all rookie receivers in practically every stat. This season, he has caught 88 passes for 1,400 yards and tallied seven touchdowns. Jefferson not only broke Randy Moss’ Vikings record for receptions and yards but also broke the NFL All-Time record for yards. He was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie and will possibly receive All Pro consideration as well.

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Jefferson’s value has been so essential to the Vikings’ offense. His EPA/play (expected points added) is a whopping 0.58 on the season. EPA/play tracks the value of individual plays in adding points to the scoreboard. It is done by calculating the Expected Points (EP) of the down, distance, and field position situation at the start of a play while contrasting it with the situation at the end of the play.

Credit per @mnpykings on Twitter

Jefferson earned the starting role in Week Three versus the Tennessee Titans in which he put up his seven catches, 175 yards, and griddy-ing into the endzone TD. Since then, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins’ play has tremendously improved. Below are two charts, courtesy of rbsdm.com, displaying NFL QB completion percentage above expected (CPOE) versus EPA/play. Before Jefferson earned the starting role, Cousins sat in the bottom-left corner, which is the worst of both cases. Since Week Three, however, Cousins skyrocketed to the top right.

Chart courtesy of Ben Baldwin and rbsdm.com
Chart courtesy of Ben Baldwin and rbsdm.com

He is also top three in DVOA, Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. This stat quantifies value, per play, over an average WR in the same game situations. Jefferson has been one of the most valuable receivers in the NFL as a rookie. 

His truly historic rookie season has taken the notice of people like former Vikings legends like Cris Carter and Randy Moss to Michael Jordan. Jefferson has put together one of the best seasons for a rookie receiver since his LSU counterpart Odell Beckham Jr. did it with the Giants back in 2014. Many around the league believe that Jefferson is the Offensive Rookie of the Year. 

He has received praise from All-Pro Saints WR Michael Thomas, who had to say this after Jefferson’s 12 catches, 121 yards, and a touchdown performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars: 

Former Vikings WR Stefon Diggs chimed in on his pick for Rookie of the Year, saying:

So, why should Jefferson win Rookie of the Year? I went back and examined the rookie seasons of three former Rookie of the Year winners: Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014, Anquan Boldin in 2003, and Randy Moss in 1998, to compare their seasons to that of Jefferson’s. 

I created a chart comparing the receivers’ stats:

Justin Jefferson
Odell Beckham JrRandy MossAnquan Boldin
Targets/catches125/88130/91124/69165/101
Yards1,4001,3051,3131,377
Touchdowns712178
DVOA29.3%25.8%30.1%6.3%
VOA27.4%28.9%27.4%5.9%
DYAR370396428249
YAR353429439244
EPA/play0.580.52N/A0.22
PFF grade90.490.8N/AN/A

In Week 17 versus the Detroit Lions, Justin Jefferson broke the record for the most receiving yards by a rookie in the Super Bowl era, toppling Boldin’s numbers and finishing top three among all WRs in the NFL. By way of advanced stats, Jefferson has been the most valuable receiver in all of football not only in 2020 but also among the former Rookie of the Year winners.

Jefferson doesn’t think too much about it- when asked about possibly being named Rookie of the Year, he said: “I just let my play do the talking. I just go out and have fun playing the game I love.” 

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