Vikings Have a “Dark Horse” Award Contender

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Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson already won the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award — two years ago during Kevin O’Connell’s first hurrah as head coach.

Vikings Have a “Dark Horse” Award Contender

Now, according to Bleacher Report, Jefferson is a dark horse option to take home MVP bacon, a feat never accomplished by a wide receiver.

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BR’s Brad Gagnon mentioned a handful of MVP dark horses this week, and Jefferson was the only non-quarterback to get the nod. “I’m imagining a scenario in which the NFL’s most talented receiver simply explodes in his prime, possibly at a record-setting tune,” Gagnon opined.

Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, C.J. Stroud, and Joe Burrow are the frontrunners to win the MVP this season, at least as of late June.

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Gagnon added about Jefferson’s MVP chances, “And if that happens with Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy splitting up time at quarterback, this far-fetched scenario could lead to a wide receiver winning the MVP award for the first time.”

No non-quarterback has won the MVP trophy since 2012, when Adrian Peterson, a former Viking, earned the accolade. In the last 12 years, MVP has truly morphed into a quarterback award, with defensive players or anyone else rarely getting any nibbles. In that vein, Jefferson or any pass-catcher gaining enough momentum to topple a quarterback is a longshot.

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Jefferson nailed down a contract extension earlier this month, inking a four-year, $140 million deal and making the phenom playmaker the richest non-quarterback in NFL history while solidifying his spot on Minnesota’s roster through the end of the 2028 season. His new agreement attaches him to the Vikings in exact alignment with rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy. Both have contracts set to expire after 2028.

In 2023, Jefferson missed seven games due to a hamstring injury, and even though the team started winning games the moment he left the starting lineup, the LSU alumnus still managed to grab 1,074 receiving yards in 10 games. Translated to 17 games, Jefferson would’ve nabbed over 1,800 yards in 2023, his fourth season as a pro. His career-best occurred in 2022 with 1,809 yards, the season that he won OPOY.

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Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) looks to pass against the Tennessee Titans during the fourth quarter at Nissan Stadium Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. © Andrew Nelles / / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Gagnon mentioned two other dark horse MVP candidates: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Trevor Lawrence, the signal-caller for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jefferson has around +10,000 odds to win the MVP award, roughly the same probability as Will Levis of the Tennessee Titans and Geno Smith from the Seattle Seahawks. Former Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who now plays for the Atlanta Falcons, has +4,000 odds.

The NFL regular season is 10 weeks away.

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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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