Where NFL Insiders Rank Justin Jefferson
Because of the historic start to his NFL career, Vikings star wideout Jefferson is near the top in the league in most rankings. He made ESPN’s top 10 list of receivers, but at least one person hilariously snubbed the Vikings standout.
ESPN released top 10 lists of all position groups, so it was only a matter of time until the WR rankings appeared. The company polls more than 50 NFL insiders, including players, executives, and coaches. Those people usually know what they are doing.
On top of the list is Davante Adams. Jefferson also ranked him as the best wideout in football in his own rankings. He leads the league in receiving yards and touchdowns since 2017. In five of the last six seasons, Adams scored double-digit touchdowns.
The 29-year-old will no longer play with his long-time quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. After the trade to the Raiders, he is reunited with his college passer, Derek Carr. The two were a deadly duo at Fresno State. Adams finished at the top of the list in back-to-back years.
The second-best receiver is Cooper Kupp. The Super Bowl champion comes fresh from a campaign in which he won the triple crown – most yards, touchdowns, and catches. He also came close to breaking Calvin Johnson’s single-season record and set records in terms of reception in the postseason.
In Sean McVay’s offense, Kupp excels in the passing game as a receiver and on rushing downs as a blocker. He’s a great route runner, has excellent hands, is smart, and has the necessary athleticism to play at the highest level. He immediately formed a connection with quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Ja’Marr Chase ranks at the third spot. Jefferson had Chase and Kupp behind himself as tied third. The former college teammate of Jefferson came into the league and instantly hit the ground running. His regular season ended after breaking Jefferson’s rookie record by recording 1,455 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns.
Despite facing heavy criticism at first, the Bengals are very happy that they’ve drafted a wideout with the valuable fifth overall pick and passed on offensive linemen to protect their quarterback.
Jefferson Ranks 4th
Two spots lower than his own rankings, the Vikings standout Jefferson ranks fourth among NFL insiders. One year ago, he was just an honorable mention. However, at least one of the voters didn’t include the Vikings superstar in his top 10. In his two years in the league, nobody had more receiving yards than him, as he ranked fourth and second in those seasons. In 2021, he also ranked sixth in receiving touchdowns. That snub is inexcusable for the back-to-back second-team All-Pro.
“Jefferson was an ascending star after his 2020 rookie year. Now, he’s a bona fide star after his sophomore year. He put together a near-perfect season, recording a stellar 90.1 Pro Football Focus rating after catching 108 of his 168 targets for 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jefferson also ranked 14th in yards per catch (15.0), which is impressive considering his usage.”– Jeremy Fowler, ESPN
Jefferson had one of the best receiving seasons in Vikings history. He came 16 yards short of Randy Moss’ single-season record in franchise history. He also ranked fifth all-time in receptions, behind Cris Carter twice, Adam Thielen, and Moss.
“The Vikings didn’t hide their intentions to force-feed Jefferson the ball, no matter the coverage. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the LSU product recorded 2,060 air yards, which was 45.2% of the team’s total output, 3% higher than any other player in the league. And despite the presence of Adam Thielen, Jefferson also saw 28.9% of Minnesota’s targets, the third-most in the NFL”– Jeremy Fowler, ESPN
The wideout is a special athlete, considering he produced historical numbers in a run-first offense. Thielen and Jefferson build a great duo, just like Cousins, his quarterback, and Jefferson. The two formed a connection that gave Jefferson the record for the most yards in a player’s first two seasons. He had a high target share despite facing a lot of double teams.
“He’s not a burner, but he’s got everything else,” an NFL offensive coach said. “Instincts, competitive, great route-runner, can win at all levels of the field. But even the burner conversation seems moot after Jefferson ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash before the 2020 draft and broke 11 plays for 30-plus yards in 2021. As multiple scouts and coaches said, I’ll take his speed all day.”– Jeremy Fowler, ESPN
The burner conversation is a strange one. He doesn’t possess Tyreek Hill´s speed, but his route running ability, in combination with above-average speed, makes him an elite deep threat in the league. Once again, it’s a perfect combination with Cousins, who throws a marvelous deep ball.
The numbers could even improve in the upcoming season.
“He wants to be the best in the game, and you can feel that,” an AFC coach said. “He’ll get a gazillion targets in that [new Vikings] offense.”– Jeremy Fowler, ESPN
Jefferson recently said he wants to take the top spot from Davante Adams. The new offensive system implemented by coach Kevin O’Connell could help him that way. His offense supported Cooper Kupp on his path to recording over 1,900 yards and 16 touchdowns. Jefferson is arguably more talented and could feast in a pass-heavy offense.
Thielen Is A Footnote
Unlike Jefferson, the other Vikings receiver, Adam Thielen, didn’t make the top 10 rankings. The article starts with a top 10 list, then seven honorable mentions, and five players got the label “also received votes.” Thielen is one of the latter. He is still a good receiver but is no longer producing the necessary yardage number to crack the top 10. The last time Thielen had more than 1,000 yards in a season was in 2018.
However, he transformed his game and became an elite red zone threat after the departure of Kyle Rudolph and ranks third in the league with 24 TDs in just 28 games in those two seasons.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt