Vikings Flaunt Fancy Stat on Justin Jefferson’s Birthday
Minnesota Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson turned 23 on Thursday, and his employer wasn’t afraid to brag about him.
Through age 22, or in this case, before turning 23, Jefferson holds the NFL record for most receiving yards, accompanied below by JuJu Smith-Schuster and Hall of Famer Randy Moss.
Jefferson also ranks fifth all-time in receiving touchdowns (17) by a player through his age-22 season.
And Jefferson has accomplished the before-age-23 feat in a run-first offense fancied by former Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. The Vikings let go of Zimmer in January, but before that, the defense-first coach preferred to run the ball with Dalvin Cook, play some defense, and win ballgames in the neighborhood of 24-17.
Somehow, Jefferson still managed to tabulate receiving yards to the utmost, probably a product of his 292 targets from Kirk Cousins and Sean Mannion in 2020 and 2021. The moral of the story? While Jefferson hasn’t been targeted too infrequently, Minnesota, with a new offense-first head coach, may target Jefferson even more in 2022.
The theory is viable because of precedent. New head coach Kevin O’Connell arrived in Minnesota from the Los Angeles Rams, and that franchise targeted Cooper Kupp in 2021 like gangbusters. Kupp was targeted 191 times within the Rams Super Bowl-winning offense, dwarfing Jefferson’s 2021 target load of 167 by 24.
Last year, Jefferson notched 1,616 yards on 108 receptions with 10 touchdowns. Using Kupp’s 191 targets to scale, these would theoretically be Jefferson’s numbers [per target] if allotted the same attention as Kupp:
- 123 Receptions
- 1,848 Receiving Yards
- 11 Touchdowns
And entering Year Three inside a pass-happy offense, Jefferson could even surpass Kupp’s output with the 2021 Rams if he stays healthy. Jefferson was a whisker away from breaking the Vikings team record for receiving yards in 2021, but the aforementioned Zimmer opted not to throw the ball late in the final game of the season. Only 17 yards were needed by Jefferson to grab the franchise record.
Jefferson shares a birthday with rapper Tupac Shakur, golfer Phil Mickelson, actor Daniel Bruhl, and ‘The Ultimate Warrior’ of WWE fame.
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 Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).