Vikings Wide Receiver Justin Jefferson Is Looking Toward Year 3
The Minnesota Vikings stand-out wide receiver, Justin Jefferson, is looking towards his third season in the NFL, and the future looks bright. The 2021 season was yet another tumultuous one for the Vikings. Once again the team was not able to make it above .500 and missed the playoffs for the 3rd time in 4 years. All season rumors swirled about the possible firing of coaches and the GM, as well as the future of QB Kirk Cousins. We now know that head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman have been fired. Amidst all of this turmoil, there have been some very bright spots, and one of the brightest is Jefferson.
The LSU WR was drafted in 2020 in the first round, 22nd overall, by the Vikings. Since then he has been exceeding expectations and setting records. In 2020, he set a Super Bowl-era rookie record for receiving yards with 1,400. What makes that record even more incredible is that he did not start until Week 3. He was selected to the Pro Bowl and named a second-team All-Pro. Jefferson was also in contention for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award for 2020 but lost to Justin Herbert. Jefferson admits he was motivated a bit by his draft position; several receivers were selected before him: Jeudy, Ruggs, Lamb, and Reagor. Jefferson was the only rookie WR to break 1,000 yards.
No Sophomore Slump
During the offseason, there was talk of whether or not he could do it again or if his first season was just a lucky one. He silenced critics and beat that rookie number with 1,616 receiving yards. What makes this even more amazing is that during mid-season he had a period where he had limited targets. Against Dallas he was only targeted 4 times and only 5 times the following week against Baltimore. Jefferson still acquired the record for most receiving yards in a player’s first two seasons combined: 3,016 yards. He has once again been named to the Pro Bowl. PFF has him ranked third among receivers with a score of 90.1.
Not Just a Great Pair of Hands
Justin Jefferson is a phenomenal wide receiver but that is not his only great attribute. Jefferson has emerged as a young leader on this team. When asked about not breaking the single-season receiving record for the franchise, held by Randy Moss, Jefferson said it was frustrating to get so close and not get it. He shrugged it off saying he would be back to try again. When asked about the reception K.J. Osborn had while Jefferson stood open he displayed no animosity. He was genuinely happy his teammate caught the ball and scored. Jefferson isn’t selfish or greedy, he understands the best way to have success is for everyone to do their part.
The Future Looks Bright
Now that Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer have been let go by the Vikings there is some uncertainty for the future. It is possible that Klint Kubiak, offensive coordinator, might leave as well – he is being interviewed by other teams. There is also the possibility that Cousins will not return.
It is critical that the organization consider how to retain its strongest assets; Justin Jefferson is up at the top of the list. Having him partner with fellow receiver Adam Thielen, running back Dalvin Cook, and tight end Tyler Conklin helps to create an offensive powerhouse. Cousins’ future in Minnesota might not be clear but both Cousins and Jefferson have talked about the on-field chemistry they have.
The Wilf family will have some serious decisions to make regarding the leadership of the Vikings in the coming weeks. They have always shown consideration toward the big picture of success and will hopefully solidify a group that helps to propel this offense to success. Justin Jefferson will be an integral part of that rebuild and it is clear he has much more to give.