Justin Jefferson’s Toughest 2022 matchups
Justin Jefferson has established himself as one of the elite receivers in the NFL, regardless of the opponent he faces any given week. Double-teaming him is the only chance for defenses to contain him and the special connection between him and quarterback Kirk Cousins.
The LSU standout will certainly go against the top cornerback of any team he faces. The Vikings play against some really good ones, and Jefferson will face some tough matchups in 2022.
Completely stopping him is an impossible task. The superstar leads the league with 26 games in games of at least 50 receiving yards since he came into the league. He also leads the NFL with four games of at least 150 receiving yards during that timespan.
Overall, he´s first in the league in receiving yards since he was drafted. His 3,016 yards rank him above Stefon Diggs, Cooper Kupp, and Davante Adams, despite having fewer targets than all of them.
Weeks 1 and 17 – Jaire Alexander
The Packers top defensive back just signed a huge contract extension. The four-year $84 Million deal makes him the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history. Alexander missed all but four games in the 2021 season. However, he played in the 2020 campaign at an elite level and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl and a spot on the second All-Pro team. PFF ranked him as the top cornerback in that season with a grade of 90.7.
The Packer faced the Vikings twice in his best season. In the opening game, Jefferson didn’t play a lot. However, in the second matchup, Jefferson was already a rising star, and the Packers cornerback was matched up against him most of the game. Jefferson was held in check, but the Vikings won the game through Dalvin Cook’s dangerous running attack. Now, both Jefferson and Alexander are established stars at their respective positions, and it will be a fun matchup to watch in the Vikings’ 2022 season and beyond.
Week 2 – Darius Slay
Slay is a four-time Pro Bowler and a 2017 All-Pro, despite playing outside of the national spotlight in Detroit for most of his career. In 2020, the Eagles traded for him, and since then, he’s been their top cornerback. Slay is 31 years old but is still playing at a high level. In addition to receiving the best grades of his career from PFF, he attended the Pro Bowl in 2021. He was graded as the fourth-best cornerback in the league. Slay will lose a step in the near future, but until that’s the case, he’ll be one of the best players in the league and a formidable opponent for Justin Jefferson.
Week 4 – Marshon Lattimore
After struggling in 2019 and 2020, the former Ohio State star defender again played at an elite level in 2021. Per PFF, he was the 10th best player at his position. The four-time Pro-Bowler is expected to be matched up against Justin Jefferson when the two teams meet in London.
Both won some reps in a great battle in 2020. Lattimore and his Saints got the better of Jefferson and the Vikings, and it will be one of the most exciting matchups of the upcoming 2022 season.
Week 6 – Xavien Howard
Howard started into the offseason demanding a new contract, and he got it. He is now the sixth highest-paid cornerback in the league. In 2020, PFF ranked him as the second-best CB in football, just behind the Packer, Jaire Alexander. Howard was part of the All-Pro team that season, led the league in interceptions twice, and is a three-time Pro Bowler. Justin Jefferson will face a tough opponent, but that makes the NFL fun. Watching the best go against each other.
Week 10 – Tre’Davious White
When the Vikings face the Bills in week 10, which will be the Stefon Diggs revenge game and Jefferson playing against the team, that gave the Vikings the draft pick to select him. White is one of the top defensive backs in football. The fellow LSU alumni is a two-time All-Pro. White will probably draw the assignment to go up against the star receiver in a battle of two former Tigers.
Week 11 – Trevon Diggs
The Vikings play against the Diggs brothers in back-to-back weeks. Trevon Diggs is a controversial player, as he allows a lot of catches, yards, and big plays. However, he led the league with incredible 11 interceptions. In 2021 against the Cowboys, Justin Jefferson had just four targets for two receptions and 21 yards. That was the lowest yardage Jefferson had in a single game since entering the league. He will look to bounce back in 2022 and make Diggs pay for his aggressive playing style.
Week 13 – Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner
Unlike the other defenders on the list, Gardner is not a proven player in the league. The fourth overall pick was widely considered the best cornerback in the draft. He was a true lockdown cornerback in college and will be able to gain experience before he meets Justin Jefferson. Jefferson will show the rookie the difference between the NFL and the AAC, where Gardner played with his Cincinnati Bearcats.
Week 15 – Stephon Gilmore
The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl champion, and two-time All-Pro signed with the Indianapolis Colts in free agency. The former Patriot played in Carolina in 2021. Between 2017 and 2019, he was an elite cornerback in the league and maybe the best in the business. In 2020 and 2021, he struggled with injuries and started just 14 of 33 possible games. Gilmore will be 32 by the time he’ll meet Justin Jefferson. It’s possible that he lost a step and can’t cover Jefferson, but it’s also possible that he’ll bounce back and be phenomenal against him. It’s one of the games that Jefferson has probably circled on his schedule.
Records to Break For Jefferson
Justin Jefferson enters his third season on a record-breaking pace. He needs 1,147 receiving yards to tie the NFL record for most receiving yards in a player’s first three seasons, held by Vikings legend Randy Moss.
Jefferson is second in most career receiving yards per game in NFL history, just trailing Julio Jones. Jefferson is currently at 91.4, while Jones has 91.9. However, Julio Jones is no longer in his prime, and therefore his number could drop, and Jefferson could take over the number one spot if he keeps his play at a high level.
Kevin O’Connell, the new head coach, comes from the Rams, who favored the pass heavily, while the Vikings tried to be a run-first team. Tams receiver Cooper Kupp played at a record-breaking pace in 2021, and Jefferson’s usage in O’Connell’s offense may increase. 1,964 receiving yards in the record for the most in a single season. Calvin Johnson, the former member of the Detroit Lions, holds the record.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who has a fable for numbers and stats. He chose the Vikings as his favorite team, despite Christian Ponder being the quarterback at the time. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Arguing about the Vikings on Twitter is one of his favorite things to do. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt