Justin Jefferson Is Evidently Not the NFL’s Best Player Under 25

Justin Jefferson
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings got younger in the offseason. Jordan Addison replaced Adam Thielen in the draft. He is 12 years younger. Thirty-year-old cornerback Patrick Peterson was replaced by Byron Murphy, who is 25. He will play on the opposite side of rookie Mekhi Blackmon or one of last year’s rookies, Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans.

Eric Kendricks, the starting middle linebacker for the better part of a decade, had to leave the team and will be replaced by Brian Asamoah. All of those moves will drop the average age. The franchise had one of the oldest overall teams in the league last year. The defense even ranked third-oldest.

Justin Jefferson Is Evidently Not the NFL’s Best Player Under 25

Jefferson Is Evidently
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings employ one young player who is so special that the whole league is jealous. Justin Jefferson is still only 23 years old, a ridiculous age for a player with his accolades. Since entering the league in 2020, no player recorded more receiving yards than the former LSU standout with his 4,825 yards. The next one in line is Davante Adams, who had 4,443. That is the most yardage gained by a player in his first three career seasons in NFL history.

Jefferson is also the reigning Offensive Player of the Year, a three-time Pro Bowler, and a first-team All-Pro in 2022 after leading the league in receptions and receiving yards. Both were also franchise records in a single season. He is the youngest player ever to lead the league in both categories in the same season.

Despite all of that, Jefferson could not claim the top spot in Pro Football Focuslist of the top players under 25 and came in second instead.

Three straight seasons of elite receiving grades for Jefferson — 90.4 in 2020, 90.1 in 2021 and 90.2 in 2022 — means he stands alone at the top of the young receiver list in terms of dominance and consistency. He’s unmatched, not just for his age, but among all NFL receivers.

Trevor Sikkema, PFF

The fourth-year player is incredible. In fact, he is so good, everyone expects him to reset the receiver market with his next contract. That deal should be signed in the next few months. Minnesota used the fifth-year option, a no-brainer. He is now under contract for two more seasons, but the Vikings are working to add some more years. An average annual salary of north of $30 million is not just possible. It is likely.

Jordan Addison Has
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

He enters a season without Thielen for the first time in his career. The Vikings brought in Addison to take some pressure off him, someone who can draw some defensive attention in his own right or take advantage of the usual double-teams against Jefferson. The national opinion on the new duo is high.

But if Jefferson is so good, why did he rank second? Because Micah Parsons is also special, that’s why.

Parsons followed up a stellar rookie season with yet another great year as a pass rusher. His 92.0 pass-rush grade and 23.4% pass-rush win percentage in 2022 were just slightly behind his 93.0 pass-rush grade and 24.8% pass-rush win percentage from the previous season, but he maintained those high numbers while playing 281 more pass-rush snaps in 2022. He’s already one of the most impactful players in the league, young or old.

Trevor Sikkema, PFF

Parsons came into the league as a linebacker, but the Cowboys immediately saw his potential as a pass-rusher. His unique skillset allows the Cowboys to use him in different spots. The Vikings had to witness Parson’s pass rush ability firsthand when he sacked Kirk Cousins twice in their 2022 matchup. He had five QB hits.

Even Christian Darrisaw had problems with Parsons. He was the only player who made Darrisaw look like a bad tackle all year. After the lineman had to be replaced because of a concussion, things didn’t get better when Blake Brandel had to go up against the unstoppable Parsons.

for Vikings at Bears
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports.

Speaking of Darrisaw, he ranks 15th on the list.

Darrisaw dealt with a groin injury in his rookie season that caused him to miss four games, and he finished the year with a 71.9 overall grade. But this past season, he played in 15 games, recording 910 snaps, and earned an elite 90.4 overall grade. That massive jump was extremely impressive, and something that should give him a baseline to be one of the top young offensive linemen in the game moving forward.

Trevor Sikkema, PFF

Only injuries could derail his career. Darrisaw is an outstanding offensive tackle in both run and pass block. He and Jefferson figure to be the two staples of the Vikings organization, a duo that makes it a good landing spot for any young quarterback when Kwesi Adofo-Mensah pulls the trigger at some point in the near future.

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