Mon, 27 Jun 2022

Lunchbreak: Justin Jefferson Tabbed as NFC's Top Receiver

Minnesota Vikings
23 Jun 2022, 04:37 GMT+10

Lindsey Young

The NFL boasts talented wide receivers all across the league - but who are the best of the best?

CBS Sports' Cody Benjamin recently ranked the top 10 wideouts entering the 2022 season, and Vikings fans will notice a familiar name near the top.

Benjamin ranked Jefferson as the No. 2 overall receiver and top in the NFC. He wrote:

His historic start is similar to that of Vikings Legend Randy Moss, and the comparison isn't wild. In two short years as Minnesota's top target, he's not only replaced Stefon Diggs' swagger and production but topped it. The slender No. 1 is the perfect contemporary wideout - lightning fast with good hands, good height and good routes. [...] He's one of the safest bets to rack up both volume and highlight-reel touchdowns.

The only receiver ranked ahead of Jefferson by Benjamin was Davante Adams, who left the NFC North (insert sigh of relief here) to sign with Las Vegas.

The Raiders may or may not have the offensive line and defensive depth to justify deep-playoff hopes, but it's no wonder they paid up to land Adams, and not just because he's friends with Derek Carr. The longtime Packers star has played a full season just twice in his eight-year career, but when he's on the field (even banged up), he's the total package, averaging over 90 yards per game in three of his last four seasons. He gets open at every level, has reliable hands and shows up on clutch downs. Any concern about his split from Aaron Rodgers should be mild if his public and private chemistry with Carr is any indication of their future together.

Former Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs, whom Minnesota traded to Buffalo in 2020 (and subsequently used one of the acquired draft picks to grab Jefferson), landed at No. 5 on Benjamin's list behind Ja'Marr Chase at No. 3 and Cooper Kupp at No. 4.

The Vikings are slated to face Diggs and the Bills in Buffalo on Nov. 13.

After five years as the swaggering star of the Vikings WR room, Diggs has become an even more complete target as Josh Allen's favorite outlet. He simply does everything well. The speed element is still there, making him a sturdy candidate to haul in Allen's rocket launches, but he really wins off the line and in his breaks, mastering his routes and maintaining reliable hands. As he inches closer to 30, he might rely even more on possession skills, but in Buffalo's deep, explosive offense, that's hardly a bad thing.

Behind Diggs, Benjamin ranked the following from 6-10, respectively: Tyreek Hill (Dolphins), Mike Evans (Buccaneers), Deebo Samuel (49ers), Keenan Allen (Chargers) and A.J. Brown (Eagles).

PFF plays out 2020 NFL Draft 'do-over'

Hindsight is always 20/20, right?

Which is what makes it fun to look back at previous NFL Drafts and see how well the performance of players selected has matched the order in which they came off the board.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus decided to "re-do" the 2020 NFL Draft, knowing all that we do now about that year's class.

PFF's Ben Linsey didn't have Jefferson falling any farther than No. 3 to the Lions. It's a good thing that's not how the draft actually played out, as the Vikings would then be reckoning with Jefferson as a division rival. Linsey wrote:

Writing off [cornerback Jeff] Okudah as a "bust" is premature given the injuries he dealt with and the difficult responsibilities he was given out of the gate in Matt Patricia's defense, but it's safe to say Detroit would jump at the chance for a do-over.

Jefferson has quickly established himself as one of the NFL's best wide receivers at just 23 years old. There were concerns coming out of LSU about his ability to win on the outside, particularly against press coverage, but Jefferson quickly rendered those concerns foolish with a 93.0 PFF grade against press coverage since 2020 that leads all wide receivers. He would have been an immediate contributor on a Lions roster that had Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Jr., and little else behind them at this point.

So, then, where does that put Minnesota with the 23rd overall pick? Linsey said the Vikings would take cornerback Jaylon Johnson. In the remix, Johnson was selected 50th overall by Chicago.

Jefferson falling outside of the top-20 selections and into Minnesota's lap was one of the steals of the 2020 NFL Draft. Unfortunately for the Vikings, there's no chance for a repeat after two seasons of Jefferson torching the NFL.

This selection doesn't fill the Vikings need for a wide receiver to pair with Adam Thielen, but Minnesota has also had a revolving cast of cornerbacks in recent years. Johnson has responded well to the No. 1 role he's been forced into on the outside. There's still some room for growth, but Johnson has been active at the catch point for Chicago, as his 15.3 [percent] forced incompletion rate ranks sixth among 64 cornerbacks with at least 100 targets since 2020.

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