Apparently, Justin Jefferson Isn’t as Talented as We Thought

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It has been a wild time since the Minnesota Vikings and star receiver Justin Jefferson played their last game in January. Since then, all kinds of disrespectful things have been said about the Offensive Player of the Year, as if he hasn’t been shredding the league since 2020. Even though we’re close to the season, the latest evidence of weird Jefferson takes arrived.

Apparently, Justin Jefferson Isn’t as Talented as We Thought

as Talented as We Thought
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Ex-NFL player Keyshawn Johnson and radio host Max Kellerman agreed that Jefferson isn’t one of the five best wideouts in the league because he is a system receiver, a Packers writer claimed that Christian Watson has more upside than JJ and Pat McAfee had the absurd idea that Jefferson was only that effective because Dalvin Cook was in the backfield and defenses focused on him.

Undoubtedly, all of those thoughts are outlandish. Three years of production on a Hall of Fame trajectory aren’t just a coincidence because of the surroundings. One could make the counterpoint that he has been great despite a horribly ineffective rushing attack and a lack of a good second WR last season.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark laughs during a live taping of ESPN’s “First Take” at Florida A&M University’s new Will Packer Performing Arts Amphitheater as part of the school’s homecoming festivities Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. © Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat / USA TODAY NETWORK.

ESPN analyst Ryan Clark, a former Pittsburgh Steelers safety, produced the latest clickbaity claim on live television, making the case that Steelers wideout George Pickens is a more talented receiver than Jefferson. And not just more talented. He said, “Much more talented.”

Talent is not a defined word, it can have all kinds of meanings in the world of football. It is also a strange word to use because it is subjective and easy to weasel out of it if the pushback arrives, and that’s what he did, stating that he didn’t say better, he said more talented. One would think talent should translate to production but not in this case.

For Clark, talent means more physically talented, apparently. He clarified on Wednesday evening on Twitter: “Jettas the best we got, but GP’s measurables are more impressive.” Clark doubled down on Thursday morning: “Bigger, taller, stronger, more physical, physical gifted, faster, more explosive, jumps higher… Doesn’t mean he will ever be what JJ is, but Pickens is a more physically gifted player.”

If there was only a way to measure those physical gifts, like an annual event in which draft prospects appear to run and jump. Turns out, the draft combine exists, and so do the pro days. Well, Clark was either uninformed or lied because the numbers certainly don’t.

Fired up a No
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Jefferson ran a faster 40-yard dash with a better 20-yard split. His vertical jump was higher by a lot. His broad jump was better. He weighs more and has bigger hands and longer arms. Pickens had a better 10-yard split and is two inches taller.

In addition to that, physical gifts alone don’t make a player more talented. There is also Jefferson’s ability to create separation against anyone, and he recorded his 4,825 career receiving yards — of course, the most of any player before turning 24 and the most of any player in the first three seasons — facing double-teams. One of Pickens’ negatives is that he struggled to consistently generate separation, which is why he has to make contested catches all the time.

Both have amazing hands and created highlight plays with acrobatic grabs all season. Jefferson is also effective in all areas of the field — deep, medium, and short — can play inside and outside and doesn’t have a weakness.

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Pickens is a good young receiver in the league with a lot of upside. Fifty-two catches for 801 yards and 4 touchdowns aren’t bad numbers for a rookie by any means, and he might take another step to become one of the better receivers in the league, but that doesn’t make him more talented than the best wideout in football.

Better production in college, better production in the NFL, and better measurables show Jefferson’s incredible talent.

That whole conversation should be classified as an elite homer take, as Pickens, of course, plays for Clark’s Steelers, but his role as an analyst still requires some semblance of objectivity.

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