One Viking Makes’s ‘Under 25’ Team

Dec 29, 2019; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander (20) picks up his helmet prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

A couple of weeks ago, Nick Shook from constructed an ‘Under 25’ team comprised of the best NFL players under the age of 25. For example, Lamar Jackson is the quarterback of the on-paper team while individuals like Josh Jacobs and Jonathan Taylor patrol the backfield per Shook’s analysis.

As for wide receivers, Julio Jones’ new running mate, A.J. Brown, was named from Tennessee Titans, a feat derived from Brown’s first two seasons in the business. In each season, Brown tabulated north of 1,000 receiving yards in both rookie and sophomore campaigns, adding in 19 total touchdowns in two years. And that’s inside a Titans offense that is loudly a run-first operation.

Shook must enjoy wide receivers from run-first teams, evidenced by his selection of the lone Minnesota Vikings player to earn recognition for the team — Justin Jefferson.

Justin Jefferson

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Jefferson just turned 22 in June, making the choice one of the no-brainer variety for a youth-infused bunch. Shook said about Jefferson:

It appeared to be a daunting challenge entering the season, but Jefferson couldn’t have done a better job of replacing Stefon Diggs in 2020. The wideout’s 1,400 receiving yards were the most by a rookie in the Super Bowl era. He’ll need to replicate his production from the 2020 campaign in 2021 to surpass Odell Beckham Jr. for the most receiving yards in a player’s first two seasons in the Super Bowl era. It’s quite a task, but if Jefferson taught us one thing last season (other than how to hit the Griddy), it’s that he won’t shy away from great expectations.

D.K. Metcalf from the Seattle Seahawks also made the cut, although Shook assigned his role in the “Flex” position.

Jefferson had famous shoes to fill in 2020. He was the defacto replacement for Stefon Diggs, a player disillusioned with the way the Vikings ran operations on offense, ending up in a trade to the Buffalo Bills. The Vikings received the Bills 1st-Round pick and more for Diggs, paving the way for the draft choice of Jefferson.

He emphatically did not disappoint.

In flashes, Jefferson was reminiscent of Randy Moss in 1998, who shattered receiving records at the time (receiving yards and touchdowns). Jefferson’s rookie season wasn’t quite that legendary when 2020 finished, but the LSU alumnus did break the all-time receiving yards record held by Anquan Boldin (he broke Moss’ record in 2003). Additionally, Jefferson performed this feat at a slight disadvantage. Minnesota did not fully work him into the offensive gameplan until Week 3. Yet, after that unofficial greenlight, Jefferson acquired instant chemistry with quarterback Kirk Cousins, hauling in an unprecedented 1,400 receiving yards.

Two other Vikings narrowly missed consideration for the ‘Under 25’ classification. Dalvin Cook showcased his best season to date during the pandemic season, gashing the league for 1,918 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns. But he’ll be 26 in August, disqualifying his candidacy from Shook’s rankings.

Then, Danielle Hunter, an EDGE rusher that missed all of 2020 due to injury, is 26 now. He frequented lists akin to Shook’s until a couple of years ago. The Vikings front office and Hunter temporarily hashed out his contractual concerns, signaling an all-clear for the defensive end to play this September.

Other notable NFLers to make the cut included Fred Warner (LB) from the San Francisco 49ers, Chase Young from the Washington Football Team, and Jaire Alexander from the Green Bay Packers.