Can Justin Jefferson Go Bigger Again in Year 3?
After two seasons in the league, Justin Jefferson is undoubtedly one of the best wide receivers around.
Drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with the 22nd pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, Jefferson was only the 5th wide receiver taken in the draft, and he entered the league with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove. This was great for the Vikings because Jefferson has more than proved himself throughout his first two seasons in Minnesota. Now, the question is can Justin Jefferson go even bigger in Year 3?
After exploding onto the scene in his rookie year with record-breaking stats, breaking the rookie receiving yards record with 1400 yards in his first season, he caught 88 of 125 targets for those 1400 yards (15.9 yards per reception and seven touchdowns). There was inevitable talk of a sophomore slump in Year 2, which often happens once there is no element of surprise and teams have had a season to learn how to plan for a player. The assumption by many was that it would be difficult for Jefferson to repeat his first season. I thought just getting over 1000 yards again would be a great achievement.
Justin Jefferson had other ideas, and not only equaled his rookie season the second time around, he surpassed it, catching 108 of 167 targets for 1616 yards at 15 yards per reception and 10 touchdowns as the undoubted WR1 on the roster and the main threat of the Vikings offense. Jefferson managed to get even better and cemented his status as a superstar in the National Football League.
Going into the 2022 season, the Vikings have a new offensive-minded head coach and an expected new philosophy of throwing the ball more. So, can Justin Jefferson go even bigger in Year 3? It is certainly possible.
Kevin O’Connell and new offensive coordinator Wes Phillips were involved in getting Cooper Kupp close to 2000 regular-season yards last season. Can they do that same for Jefferson? It’s not a gigantic leap from where he is already at.
Whatever your opinion of the Vikings offense under the tenure of Mike Zimmer — when it worked, it was explosive — hence why Jefferson has over 3000 yards and 17 touchdowns to show from his first two seasons in the league. However, there were also times when the offense was completely stagnant, particularly when the Vikings had trouble running the ball, which was the premise for Zimmer’s teams’ offense to work. The Vikings offense is packed full of talent. What Kevin O’Connell needs to do is get the best out of it on a more consistent basis.
Not long after O’Connell arrived in Minnesota, he talked about using Jefferson in a “Cooper Kupp” role.
Jefferson doesn’t need to turn into Cooper Kupp, and I don’t believe O’Connell was getting at that. If he had been studying the tapes, he would have seen long stretches of games where the Vikings offense couldn’t get anything going or get the ball to their star wide-out — through no fault of Jeffersons himself, poor offensive line play, Kirk Cousins getting rattled by constant pressure, and an offensive coordinator who didn’t seem to have any answers were the problems.
Allowing the opposition to keep Jefferson quiet is something that simply can’t happen. Consistently getting the ball to Cooper Kupp was what the Rams did well last season and what the Vikings must do with Jefferson. He has the skill set to do it, and we have seen it. Whether he’s on the outside or in the slot, Jefferson can beat his man on short or long routes, and we even caught glimpses of him coming from the backfield.
With an excellent supporting cast around him, including Adam Thielen, KJ Osborn, Irv Smith, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, and Dalvin Cook, who, if early indications from training camp are anything to go by, could be in line for more involvement in the passing game, opposing teams will have a lot more to worry about than only Justin Jefferson, but he will be the man to lead the way for the Vikings.
He fell 17 yards short of Randy Moss’ Vikings receiving yards record for a single season last year. You can bet he will have an eye on that again this season. I wouldn’t bet against him achieving that and indeed going bigger in Year 3.