The Minnesota Vikings employ arguably the best wide receiver in football. Justin Jefferson is only 23 years old, yet he’s on pace to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving yards record, and he could wind up being the first wideout ever to win the NFL MVP award. However unlikely, does it matter what traditional knowledge would suggest when dealing with an outlier like this?
Through 11 games for the Vikings this season, Justin Jefferson has already amassed over 1,200 receiving yards. He’s just a single yard off the NFL lead, and he’s on pace to be the first wide receiver to surpass the 2,000-yard mark. Through those 11 games, he has recorded triple-digit receiving yards in seven of them, and he’s been the sole difference maker for Kirk Cousins and the Vikings a handful of times.
When asked about what winning an MVP award would mean to him, Jefferson understands how unprecedented that reality is. He also understands what type of talent he possesses.
There isn’t a sportsbook in the world that would have Jefferson as the favorite at this point. For as long as it has been around, the MVP has largely remained an award destined for quarterbacks. This season, some combination of Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, and Patrick Mahomes are all vying for the title. While each of those players has been great, you can certainly argue that Jefferson has been more valuable.
Right now, the Vikings stand at 9-2, having dropped games to only the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. Despite their record, Ed Donatell’s defense has been extremely porous and often reliant on the offense to mask the issues on the other side of the ball. In doing so, it’s primarily been Jefferson carrying that load. Dalvin Cook has seen a career-low across the board in production, and while Cousins hasn’t been awful, he’s hardly replicated the Pro Bowl season he had in 2021.
Then there’s consideration of the turnaround Minnesota is seeing. A year ago, this same roster had a record below .500. While that will essentially be credited (and should be) to head coach Kevin O’Connell, it should not be lost how much Jefferson has provided as a returning weapon. Just his third year in the league, this will be a third consecutive season of advancement and achievement. Jefferson has already become the most productive receiver through three seasons to start a career, and he still has six games to go.
Ultimately, there should be no thought that Jefferson wins the MVP award. With the Eagles being as good as they are, Hurts has to be viewed as the likely choice. Throwing out conventional wisdom, however, and understanding that a receiver doing what Jefferson has is unprecedented, he should find himself right in the thick of it at the end.
Who knows? Maybe 2,000 yards isn’t the bar Jefferson wants to set. Going much above and beyond that should create some serious questions for the award.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.