The Vikings Have an MVP Dark Horse

Why Has the Vikings Pass Defense Faltered Lately?
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Three Vikings have won MVP awards. The first was Alan Page in 1971, who is still the only defensive lineman to ever win the honors and one of only two defenders. The second one was Lawrence Taylor. Frank Tarkenton was voted MVP in 1975, and Adrian Peterson in 2012. The running back has been the last non-quarterback to be named MVP.

The Vikings Have an MVP Dark Horse

The Vikings Have an MVP Dark Horse
Feb 9, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, US; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson poses for a photo after receiving the award for AP Offensive Player during the NFL Honors award show at Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The award has fully pivoted into a QB-only trophy in the last decade. Mahomes is the current guy to beat as the reigning MVP. He is followed by Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, and Justin Herbert.

Adam Schein from named nine dark horse MVP candidates, and Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson, the Offensive Player of the Year, was one of them. He was the only non-QB on Schein’s list.

I know: No wide receiver has ever won MVP. Shoot, the position rarely draws many votes. But Jefferson is clearly no ordinary wideout. Look at his first three years of NFL production:

  • 2020: 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns.
  • 2021: 108 catches for 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns.
  • 2022: 128 catches for 1,809 yards and eight touchdowns.

Good grief — what a baller! And if that yardage trend continues, Jefferson could become the league’s first 2,000-yard receiver. I could see it happening, as I wrote a couple weeks ago. With star RB Dalvin Cook gone and Pro Bowl QB Kirk Cousins in a contract year, Minnesota could really let it fly through the air — especially with this being Cousins’ second year under head coach/play-caller Kevin O’Connell.

“Kirk and I have had a ton of dialogue throughout the offseason, just really in anticipation and excitement of his Year 2 in our offense,” O’Connell said at the Annual League Meeting back in March. “He actually brought this up to me, the last time he had the same voice calling plays in the same system in his ear was Sean McVay, 2015 to 2016. This’ll be really cool for him to be in the same system, call the same formations, the same plays. I’m just excited to see him in Year 2 and my goal is that 2023 is one of the best seasons Kirk Cousins has had playing quarterback in the NFL.”

If Cousins enjoys one of his best seasons, Jefferson could produce one of the greatest wideout campaigns ever. And if the Vikings make the playoffs again, that could be enough for Jefferson to make MVP history.

Adam Schein,

The duo of Cousins and Jefferson has proven that Cousins doesn’t need a perfect and elite season for Jefferson to collect a lot of yards. If the two do the same exact thing they have done since 2020 and Jefferson finds a way to be successful even against the double and triple teams, a record-breaking season is possible. He had a couple of stinkers last year, but it isn’t completely his fault when the defenses fully focus on him. There’s only so much a player can do.

prediction for jordan
Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison on stage after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings twenty-third overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings can help their star wideout by having a few more options available. Neither Thielen nor K.J. Osborn could consistently provide that help in 2022. Maybe rookie Jordan Addison can change that.

Kevin O’Connell and his operation will go as far in 2023 as Cousins and Jefferson take them. Whenever they are truly on, the team is in every game. If they struggle and nobody else can step up, games are hard to win, considering the state of the defense and the fact that the Vikings will once again be in a lot of shootouts.

Fired up a No
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) in action during the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Jefferson would be the first receiver ever to win MVP, but he must have a historical season to have a chance. That includes the single-season receiving record held by Calvin Johnson – 1,964 yards. Cracking the 2,000-yard mark as the first player ever would also help.

In addition, his team must be one of the top teams in the league. Without the team’s success, all the numbers will not be enough. It is a long shot, and the odds of +10,000 prove that. However, he absolutely belongs in the group of dark horses because we have seen the ridiculous numbers and highlight plays one of the league’s elite players can put up.

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