Minnesota Vikings star wide receiver Justin Jefferson is calling his shot by saying he’ll be the best at his position by the end of the 2022 NFL season. Jefferson’s bold proclamation has been the talk of Twitter, but he might not be far off. The third-year wideout offered up his thoughts in a recent interview with Complex:
“I’ll say after this year I’ll be the best receiver in the NFL. I definitely have to give it to Davante Adams as of now, him being so crazy and dynamic on the field. His route running is crazy, so I definitely have to give it to him right now, but I’m pretty sure after this year, it’s going to be me.”
If Jefferson continues the same upward projection of his first two years in the league, he’ll undoubtedly have a great argument. Jefferson racked up the most receiving yards (3,016) in NFL history for a player in his first two seasons. Jefferson increased his reception total by 20 catches from year one to two.
The statistics are there, and Jefferson has a good enough quarterback in Kirk Cousins to potentially reach this goal he’s set. With Jefferson in the lineup, Cousins threw more than 30 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons for the first time in his career. They’ve got the connection and chemistry down. Now it’s time to go win some games. Minnesota has finished under .500 the last two seasons.
While Jefferson praised Adams, he isn’t the only receiver that Jefferson will need to hurdle in claiming best in the league status. We can’t leave out players like Cooper Kupp, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs, to name a few. These receivers have one particular thing in common. They all caught over 100 balls in 2021.
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However, Jefferson does have a distinct advantage over every other wideout mentioned, and that’s how strong he has been at the very start of his career. As stated above, Jefferson blows the others out of the water in production in his first two years.
Staking his claim
Jefferson had 196 receptions in his first two years. This ties him with Michael Thomas for the most catches over the first two years of a career. Hill and Diggs are the closest to Jefferson in catches in their first two seasons with 136. Yards per game is where Jefferson has really excelled, averaging 91.4. The next best in this category was Hopkins at 62.9 ypg in his first two NFL campaigns.
Aside from Hill, it took these other receivers more than a year or two to become household names around the league. And playing for Andy Reid and catching passes from Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City certainly helped raise his profile. Jefferson doesn’t have that luxury playing for a middle-of-the-pack franchise like the Vikings.
The one thing Jefferson can’t claim yet that the others can is winning football. The other five receivers named were on playoff teams last season. Hopkins got injured and missed half the year, but the Cardinals did make the postseason. It’s one thing to post outrageous stats on a team that’s going nowhere but doing it for a winner is what takes you to another level.
Of course, playing a dependent position like wide receiver, you can only control so much. That doesn’t mean Jefferson can’t or won’t climb to the top of WR mountain, but it means so much more when you do it for a winner. I’m not saying the Vikings need to win the Super Bowl. But making the playoffs coupled with another incredible year for Jefferson might solidify his spot atop the position.
The younger generation
Jefferson isn’t on an island by himself, though. These receivers he’s been mentioned alongside have a few more years of experience under their belts. But other young pass catchers are coming up that will undoubtedly have something to say about Jefferson’s potential claiming of the throne.
Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and Deebo Samuel, among others, are making lots of noise around the NFL. As a pass catcher, I’d rank Jefferson above these young receivers heading into 2022. But when you look at a player like Samuel, who can do so much for an offense, you can’t tell me his contribution to the team isn’t just as valuable as Jefferson’s or anyone else.
With so many good receivers around the league, it won’t be easy for Jefferson to grab and hold onto that No. 1 WR in the league title. Over the past few years, you could say Adams, Hopkins, Hill, and Kupp have all been considered the best wideout in the NFL at one point. I don’t doubt Jefferson’s ability to jump into the conversation and snatch the crown. But how long he manages to stay up there is what everyone is watching.