Having traded Stefon Diggs to Buffalo this offseason, it was common knowledge that the Minnesota Vikings were going to take a receiver early in the draft. They took LSU’s Justin Jefferson in the back half of Round 1. Here are Jefferson’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Vikings’ over/under win total.
Minnesota used the 22nd pick of April’s draft to select Jefferson as the de facto replacement for Diggs. Diggs spent five seasons with the Vikings. He has eclipsed 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons and is an established route runner. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins looked for Diggs a lot in the offense as the duo connected for 15 touchdowns the last two seasons.
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah thinks Jefferson could be an upgrade on Diggs, saying that “when you look at Justin Jefferson, he gives you a little more size. He’s going to win right now in the slot.”
Jefferson was not a touted prospect out of high school in Louisiana. His two older brothers – Jordan and Rickey – both played and started for LSU in football. Jordan was a three-year starter at quarterback, while Rickey started in the secondary as both a junior and senior.
After not recording a catch his first year at LSU in 2017, Jefferson was their leading receiver in 2018 with 54 catches for 875 yards and six touchdowns. He went over the 100-yard mark twice with 108 yards on six receptions vs. Georgia and 117 yards on six catches vs. Arkansas.
Last year, he was spectacular teaming with Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. Jefferson was named second-team All-SEC for the national champions. He had a school-record 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 TDs. The 1,540 yards rank No. 3 in school history, while the 18 TDs ranked No. 2 behind fellow teammate Ja’Marr Chase’s 20 in 2019.
Jefferson teamed with Chase for the most productive wide receiver duo in college football as they combined for 195 receptions for 3,320 yards and 38 TDs. Jefferson led the nation in catches and averaged 13.9 yards a catch. He had 2 games with double-digit catches (10 vs. Florida, 14 vs. Oklahoma) and had 9 or more receptions six times.
He helped LSU to 42-25 win over Clemson in national title game with 9 catches for 106 yards. In the College Football Playoff semifinal win over Oklahoma, Jefferson set CFP semifinal game records for receptions (14), receiving yards (227), receiving yards in a half (186), and receiving TDs (4). Jefferson teamed with Burrow, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Chase to become the first team in college football history with a 5,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season. In three years at LSU, he caught 165 passes for 2,415 yards and 24 TDs.
Jefferson wins matchups with nuanced route running, steady hands, straight-line speed (4.41), and 6.4 YAC per reception. Per Pro Football Focus, Jefferson accumulated 41 percent of his 2019 yardage (1,540) from ins, outs, and crosses, which are the routes he’ll likely see most often with the Vikings. He also ranked second to Jerry Jeudy in 15-plus yard catches the past two seasons.
Jefferson is 6-foot-1, 202 pounds with outstanding ball skills and contested-catch ability. He also has decent wheels (4.43 40), though he doesn’t stand out in terms of perimeter separation or against press, which helps explain why he aligned in the slot 90% of the time in 2019. With only Adam Thielen ahead of him on the depth chart, Jefferson won’t be short of playing time as a rookie.
“Justin’s a good player,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said after the draft. “He’s a guy that we really, really liked. I know the offensive staff really liked him – a tough, competitive guy. Goes up and gets the football, a hard worker, he makes a lot of contested catches. A really good player, a good kid. He played a very similar offense in college, so I think he’ll fit in well.”