Justin Jefferson heads into his rookie season with big shoes to fill. The former LSU product was drafted 22nd overall in the NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings and will be tasked with replacing Stefon Diggs in the offense.
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.
Jefferson must replace Diggs’ production alongside Adam Thielen and other playmakers in the offense. NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes that Jefferson will be an ideal fit for the Vikings this season.
On his “Move The Sticks” podcast, Jeremiah said that Jefferson could end up being better than Diggs when the season concludes.
“I’ve been on record and I think this could be an upgrade for the Minnesota Vikings,” Jeremiah said. “Stefon Diggs is an outstanding player and the Buffalo Bills hope that he can be the No. 1 wide receiver for Josh Allen. But, I think when you look at Justin Jefferson he gives you a little more size and he is going to win right now in the slot. He is going to be very trustworthy as a pass-catcher in Minnesota for their quarterback in Kirk Cousins. I think he is going to be outstanding there.”
Jefferson was stellar in his final season at LSU. He was a favorite target of Joe Burrow, now with the Cincinnati Bengals, as he had 111 receptions, 1540 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns in 15 games.
He showcased his elite skill set with four touchdowns against the Oklahoma Sooners in the College Football Playoffs. Jefferson finished the semifinal with 14 catches, 227 receiving yards and those four scores.
Many were impressed with his overall game. He caught the attention of the Vikings who love his athleticism and physicality on the field.
“Justin’s a good player,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said after the NFL 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.”
While Jefferson played in the slot at LSU, he will make the transition to the outside. The move will not be a problem as Jefferson said he has experience playing on the perimeter. He is excited to get to work with the entire offense.
“Words cannot describe the feeling,” Jefferson said. “My heart pounding as soon as I’m receiving the phone call and realizing that I’m finally becoming a professional athlete and playing for an NFL team. It’s definitely exciting, and I’m ready to join the team.”
Pro Football Focus thinks Jefferson will have an opportunity to thrive as a rookie. They ranked him as one of the top receivers that are entering great situations.
“Stefon Diggs and his 6.1 targets per game are gone and now completely up for grabs in the Vikings’ offense,” the website said. “The key here is also the big-play aspect. Diggs was tasked with getting vertical in the Vikings’ offense. His 15.6 average depth of target was the ninth-highest among receivers with at least 50 targets last year. Those are the far more valuable targets that Jefferson should absorb and excel at right off the bat.”
Add NFL Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin to the list of those impressed with Jefferson. Irvin agrees that Jefferson will have a good start to his career.
“This kid can flat-out play football,” Irvin said after the draft. “He made great plays deep, he made plays over the top of people, and … he can take short passes and make long plays out of them.”
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