The Minnesota Vikings struck gold with their first draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. After watching four wide receivers go off the board ahead of them, Rick Spielman and company sent in their card while grinning at the Eagles selection of Jalen Reagor just minutes before they made their pick.
Justin Jefferson fell to Minnesota at the 22nd overall pick, a selection they got in return in the Stefon Diggs trade. The former LSU superstar hauled in 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns in his rookie season, breaking both national and team records set by Odell Beckham Jr. and Randy Moss.
After the most prolific rookie season in NFL history for a wide receiver, it’s fair to question whether or not Jefferson could regress in year two. I’m not buying into the regression talks, and I believe year two is going to be an even bigger year for Jefferson.
The first reason is the most obvious reason, but it’s worth noting. Jefferson was eased into the offense last season before his breakout game against the Tennessee Titans. He was able to break records after not starting the first two weeks, and the NFL added an additional game in 2021. That’s three extra games barring any injuries, giving Jefferson 180 extra minutes of football in his sophomore campaign.
On top of the three extra games, Jefferson will get to go through a full summer of OTAs, minicamp, training camp and preseason. With COVID-19 protocols last year the offseason wasn’t the same and it was widely reported that rookies would have a harder time catching up to the NFL style of play.
Not only will Jefferson have more practice reps in 2021, but he wants to do it against the best of the best on the Vikings’ roster.
The Vikings offense should benefit immensely from a much improved defense from a year ago. Jefferson was going up against rookie cornerbacks throughout training camp and now he’s calling out a potential Hall of Fame cornerback in Patrick Peterson during practice. The secondary will likely be one of the most improved units for the Vikings in 2021, giving the offense a much better look before the regular season kicks off.
Jefferson has already proven to be a route running technician, so getting better competition throughout practices should only make that area of his game stronger.
The stats are already there to prove that his rookie season was one of the best that we’ve ever seen, but how PFF ranked him amongst all wide receivers in 2020 is even more spectacular.
PFF had Jefferson ranked as the second highest wide receiver in 2020 and that’s including a lot of elite players at the position. If a rookie can take the league by storm with a limited offseason program, there’s no reason to anticipate any form of regression in year two.
The final case for another special season for Jefferson is the fact that the Vikings’ offense should only be better. Adam Thielen is still playing at an elite level, Dalvin Cook is a top three running back in the league, and they’ve found stability at the quarterback position with Kirk Cousins.
With playmakers littered across the offense it’ll be difficult for opposing defenses to use double coverage on Jefferson. Throw in the fact that the Vikings attempted to shore up their offensive line in the draft and this unit could be better than it was in 2020.
It’s not fair to say Jefferson is bound to regress in 2021, especially when it seems likely that he’ll continue to dissect opposing defenses. The Vikings hit the lottery with their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and it’s fair to anticipate another huge season out of Jefferson in 2021.
Buckle up for a fun season Vikings fans, and be ready to see a lot more of that Griddy.
For more Vikings related news tune into KFAN 100.3 and stay up to date on KFAN.com.