Justin Jefferson officially has had a rookie season like no other. Breaking multiple records including Anquan Boldin's rookie record for yards in a season with 1,379 yards.
Boldin's record had stood for 17 years with few coming close breaking it, but no one has dominated out of the gate like Justin Jefferson did. Jefferson caps off his rookie season with 88 receptions for 1,400 yards (15.9 yards/catch) and 7 touchdowns. Filling some big shoes, let's backtrack and see how Justin Jefferson got to this point, and what's in store for the future of the Minnesota Vikings.
Justin Jefferson was dominating before the NFL
Justin Jefferson came from the same High School that Hall of Fame Safety Ed Reed came from, Destrehan High School in Destrehan, Louisiana. Jefferson played in a state championship game but Destrehan ultimately lost the game.
Jefferson joined LSU in 2017 and failed to record a catch in 2 appearances. However, in 2018, Jefferson would finally start catching fire, and also catching literally.
Jefferson was LSU's leading receiver his first year with Ohio State transfer Joe Burrow. He recorded 54 catches for 875 yards and six touchdowns. All those numbers were nearly doubled (or in one case tripled) during LSU's historic 2019 season, where Jefferson recorded 111 catches (most in the nation) for 1,540 yards (third most in the nation) and 18 touchdowns (second most in the nation). Jefferson shared a lot of success with one of the top WRs in this years draft class, Ja'Marr Chase, who was either a spot behind or ahead in those stats.
Jefferson also had an above average combine, measuring in at 6'1", 202 lbs, he was able to record a 4.43 40-yard dash, which is about average for NFL WRs. He also recorded a 37.5 inch vertical jump and a 10'6" broad jump.
Justin Jefferson Becomes a Viking
Despite his eye popping stats and respectable combine performance, many still felt that Jefferson was not a top 3 WR in the class. In the end, 4 WRs were taken ahead of Jefferson. Henry Ruggs (12th overall), Jerry Jeudy (15th overall), CeeDee Lamb (17th overall) and Jalen Reagor (21st overall) all were drafted before the LSU star, who ultimately landed in Minnesota, who used their first pick in the first round to replace star WR Stefon Diggs, who was traded to the Buffalo Bills for a package of picks including the 25th overall pick.
While Jefferson didn't necessarily "replace" Diggs, seeing as Vikings WR Adam Thielen was given WR1 duties, it didn't take long for Jefferson to establish himself as a legit threat in the NFL.
In week 3, against the Tennessee Titans, Jefferson went off with 7 catches for 175 yards and a score. The next week, against the Houston Texans, Jefferson put up 103 yards on only 4 catches. Yet, Jefferson played his best game in a week 6 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, where he had 9 catches for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns. All in all, Jefferson had 7 games where he toppled the century mark and had 8 games where he recorded 5+ catches.
Jefferson is a legit candidate for offensive rookie of the year, along with Chargers QB Justin Herbert, who also had a phenominal, record-breaking season.
The Future for Justin Jefferson and the Vikings
Let us circle back to the start. Is Justin Jefferson the second coming of Randy Moss? Well, despite the numbers, Jefferson would likely disagree.
He is certainly very Randy Moss-ish, with his high-flying style that's perpetuated through his unique swagger, but Justin Jefferson is fighting a different battle.
He had been slept on during the draft and was slept on before blowing up mid-season. His main goal may be to prove he is greater than the 4 men taken before him, which Moss didn't have to deal with. Jefferson is also not just filling the shoes of a distant ghost of Randy Moss, he's filling the shoes of former Vikings WR Stefon Diggs who the Vikings clearly think has a higher ceiling than Diggs.
However, in the end, Jefferson is likely only trying to be an icon in his own right. While he may forever be compared to Moss, Diggs, etc., he is likely most determined to only be Justin Jefferson 1.0 and that's it.Published 07 Jan 2021, 14:05 IST