Justin Jefferson’s Ravenous Performance > Stefon Diggs’ in MIN

Justin Jefferson's Ravenous Performance Has Already Lapped Stefon Diggs' in MIN
Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson

That didn’t take long. Not long at all.

A complete footnote to the greatest comeback in NFL history, orchestrated by the Minnesota Vikings in Week 15, involved phenom wideout Justin Jefferson. Quietly — and rightfully so due to the nature of the game — Jefferson surpassed former Vikings WR Stefon Diggs on the team’s all-time receiving yards leaderboard.

Jefferson now ranks ninth in Vikings history per receiving yards with 4,639.

Justin Jefferson’s Ravenous Performance > Stefon Diggs’ in MIN

But it’s Jefferson’s pace that is dizzying, especially compared to Diggs, who plays for the Buffalo Bills. Jefferson and Diggs are eternally linked at the hip because the men were essentially swapped for one another about three years ago. Diggs grew unhappy in Minnesota because of a “run-first offense” and asked for a trade in 2019. Ex-general manager Rick Spielman didn’t oblige immediately, instead retaining Diggs for Minnesota’s 2019 playoff push but later sending Diggs to Buffalo for draft picks.

Justin Jefferson's Ravenous
Stefon Diggs

When complete with draft picks, the trade resulted in these hauls for various teams:

MIN Received:
Justin Jefferson
Kenny Willekes
Camryn Bynum
Janarius Robinson
Zach Davidson

Other Teams Received:
Stefon Diggs, BUF
Dane Jackson, BUF
James Broche, BAL
Geno Stone, BAL
Trevis Gibson, CHI

So, as NFL talking heads usually chirp several times annually about the Diggs-Jefferson trade as “the most equitable in NFL history,” the comparison typically adjudicates the prime version of Diggs — which is, like, now — and the first-three-years edition of Jefferson. If folks had patience, they’d wait until years down the road to determine how productive Jefferson is at Diggs’ age or after each man’s career is over to offer a verdict on the deal. But we’re not that patient.

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Out of the gate, though, Jefferson couldn’t be much better. The LSU alumnus has played 47 games in the NFL and is wildly more productive compared to the beginning of Diggs’ career. Here are the numbers with the Vikings:

Receiving Yards,
with the Vikings:

Stefon Diggs: 4,623 | 70 Gms | 534 Targets
Justin Jefferson: 4,639 | 47 Gms | 450 Targets

Jefferson has tallied more yards as a member of the Vikings than Diggs in fewer games — with fewer targets. He’s simply more dynamic than Diggs was during Diggs’ start with the Vikings.

Through 47 career games, Diggs registered 2,940 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. The yardage mark for Diggs ranks 62nd in NFL history through 47 games. Not bad. On the other hand, Jefferson has tallied 4,639 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns in 47 games, the most yards ever by a player through 47 games. Jefferson’s 24 scores rank 33rd.

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It’s fine and dandy to look at “the now” and surmise, “Oh, well, Diggs and Jefferson are about the same caliber player.” You’re not wrong. However, Spielman added Jefferson — and subtracted Diggs — for the long haul, not a constant “who’s better in 2022” debate. Jefferson should remain a Viking for the next 7+ years, with a trajectory to get even better while he approaches his physical and mental prime.

So far, that path exceeds what Diggs’ produced from 2015 to 2019 — and the numbers aren’t all that close.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).