Front-runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year is now Justin Jefferson

Carolina Panthers v Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings snuck out a 27-24 overtime victory against the Jaguars on Sunday, bringing their record to 6-6 on the season. Once sitting at 1-5, the Vikings have now worked their way back to the seventh seed in the playoffs. 

A huge reason for the team’s turnaround has been the emergence of rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Jefferson led the Vikings in receiving against the Jaguars, hauling in nine receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. 

His performance on Sunday secured him a place in Vikings history, surpassing Randy Moss for the most 100-yard receiving games by a rookie with five. He surpassed one of the top receivers to ever play the game in one category and is one of four rookies to surpass 1,035 yards through the first 12 games of a season. 

Jefferson has totaled 61 catches for 1,039 yards and seven touchdowns through his first 12 games of his career. It should also be noted that he was eased into the offense and didn’t see the targets in the first two games of the season. 

These stats are impressive for any rookie wide receiver, but Jefferson is putting up insane numbers while the Vikings rank 28th in terms of pass attempts in 2020. They have the fourth lowest amount of pass attempts on the season and their rookie receiver is still blowing away other great receivers from his class. 

The next closest rookie receiver is Cincinnati's Tee Higgins, who has totaled 729 yards on the season. To put his numbers into perspective with the Vikings, the Bengals rank seventh in the NFL in terms of pass attempts this season. This very well could be the best rookie wide receiver class the NFL has ever seen, but Jefferson has been the best of the group thus far.

Jefferson has been a big play machine for the Vikings and has more receptions of 20+ yards downfield than any other receiver in the league. D.K. Metcalf has gotten a lot of recognition for the great season he’s having with Seattle, but Jefferson has actually accrued more big plays in 2020.

On top of being an absolute monster statistically, fans are witnessing a route running clinic almost every single time Jefferson steps on the field. Here is a route from the Jaguars game where he had the defensive back lost in space. 

It’s not always easy for a wide receiver to have a chance at Offensive Rookie of the Year and that’s mainly because of how quarterback driven these types of awards usually are. Justin Herbert was the front-runner before Sunday, but his performance against the Patriots was ugly. 

Herbert finished completing under 50 percent of his passes for just 209 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions against New England. He’s been great since taking over the starting role in L.A., but his subpar performance on Sunday should bring him back to the pack. 

If Jefferson continues to play like he has in recent weeks, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be the Offensive Rookie of the Year when the 2020 season comes to a close. 

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