Justin Jefferson a Finalist for NFL’s Most Prestigious Honor

PurplePTSD: History on the Line for Justin Jefferson vs. Dallas, Injuries, Mock Draft
Apr 21, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide Receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

For the first time since 2012, a Minnesota Vikings player is receiving real contention for the NFL’s MVP award.

The NFL named wide receiver Justin Jefferson an MVP finalist Wednesday after the LSU alumnus led the league in receiving yards and receptions and set the Vikings franchise records in the same categories.

Justin Jefferson a Finalist for NFL’s Most Prestigious Honor

Jefferson, 23, exploded in 2022 thanks to the addition of head coach Kevin O’Connell from the Los Angeles Rams in February. O’Connell came from a system that showcased Cooper Kupp in 2021 — and won a Super Bowl — and the first-year skipper carried over the phenomenon in Year One with Jefferson. Indeed, the “Jefferson should be used in the Cooper Kupp role” mantra you heard about all last summer came true.

Justin Jefferson Said
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) runs after a catch during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

An honor to be a finalist, Jefferson is unlikely to win the MVP award. No wide receiver has ever won the thing. Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, and Jalen Hurts are also MVP finalists, and Mahomes is all but guaranteed to take home the gold. Mahomes dished a filthy 5,250 passing yards to 45 total touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2022 and is the odds-on favorite to win the hardware.

That doesn’t discount Jefferson’s achievement, though, as the young playmaker spent most of 2022 chasing two high-profile marks: the first player to achieve 2,000 receiving yards and potentially shattering Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yards mark set in 2012 of 1,964. Jefferson finished the season on a quiet-by-his-standards note against the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears and did not reach either lofty goal.

The Vikings and Their Sneaky
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) looks on during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

About seven months ago, Jefferson told Complex’s Kameron Hay, “I’ll say after this year, I’ll be the best receiver in the NFL.”

“I definitely have to give it to Davante Adams as of now, him being so crazy and dynamic on the field. His route running is crazy, so I definitely have to give it to him right now, but I’m pretty sure after this year, it’s going to be me,” Jefferson added back in July.

The man emphatically delivered and is now considered by the masses the top dog at wide receiver in the business. The MVP consideration firmly establishes the opinion for anyone on the fence before Wednesday.

Team in Football per
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8), wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18), and wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrate the win against the New England Patriots after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Speaking of Adams, Jefferson indeed surpassed the former Packer — just like he promised — and Adams even produced another successful season. Adams tallied 1,516 receiving yards and a mega 14 touchdowns, while Jefferson totaled 1,819 yards and 9 total scores. Of course, the touchdown mark far outshines Jefferson’s figure, but the Vikings finished 2022 with a 13-4 record to the Las Vegas Raiders’ sad 6-11. Winning in the NFL affords all the kudos, and at least for a year, Jefferson is now the gold standard.

Jefferson is also expected to win the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award in just over two weeks. He’s already earned NFLPA All-Pro honors and traditional 1st-Team All-Pro recognition for his 2022 performance.

The Vikings are expected to extend his contract this offseason, a deal that will epoxy Jefferson to Minnesota’s roster for the next 6-7 years in total.

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 Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.