The NFL absolutely refuses to award the NFL MVP trophy to wide receivers. And the 2022 campaign is likely no different. Even though Minnesota Vikings pass-catcher Justin Jefferson is approaching the first 2,000+ receiving yard season in league history, MVP voters have indicated Jefferson will get no legitimate attention.
But Jefferson can win the Offensive Player of the Year award.
Justin Jefferson Has 1 Award All but Wrapped Up
As of December 26th, Jefferson holds -800 moneyline odds to win OPOY, making the LSU alumnus a near shoo-in for the hardware. The closest contender is Tyreek Hill at +1400, and all that really means is the Offensive Player of the Year recognition is heading to Minnesota, directly into Jefferson’s trophy case.
In theory, Jefferson could fall injured on Sunday during the Vikings meeting with the Green Bay Packers and affect his chances for OPOY, but that is a relative longshot — and Jefferson may have already done enough to win it. Jefferson is on pace for 1,990 receiving yards and 11 total touchdowns, and the yardage mark would top Calvin Johnson’s single-season record of 1,964. If Jefferson stopped playing football games in 2022, his 1,756 yards would rank seventh in NFL history on the single-season receiving yards leaderboard.
Of course, Jefferson wants more, and head coach Kevin O’Connell even claimed Jefferson would “fight him” if the Vikings coaching staff rested starters in Week 18. Resting starters is unlikely to happen because of the NFL’s lay of the land after Week 16, meaning O’Connell and Jefferson won’t have their boxing match.
Versus the New York Giants on Christmas Eve, Jefferson broke two Vikings records — ones with juicy names attached — the most receiving yards in a season by a Vikings wideout and receptions in a season. He topped Randy Moss and Cris Carter, respectively, conveniently in Minnesota’s 15th game, so there will be no “well, Jefferson played in a longer regular season” fodder.
Back in the spring and summer, NFL pundits and Vikings fans theorized Jefferson seizing the “Cooper Kupp role” inside O’Connell’s shiny new offense. Fast forward to Christmastime, and that’s precisely what occurred. The Vikings target Jefferson like the Los Angeles Rams did Cooper Kupp in 2021, and just like that, Jefferson is knocking on the door of the NFL’s second or third-most prestigious accolade.
Jefferson, too, believes his 2022 theatrics should sniff MVP candidacy. He told reporters this week, “Having the type of season I’m having, I feel like that’s a conversation that needs to be had for me to be MVP.”
But the problem is voters are trapped in the “old way of doing things.” NFL analysts with MVP votes virtually mandate the honor as a quarterback award. The MVP award, since 2012, is awarded to the league’s best quarterback. Plain and simple.
However, it is a bit poetic that Jefferson could earn fringe attention for the award. Why? Well, the last non-quarterback to win the MVP was a Viking. His name was Adrian Peterson, and he annihilated the NFL 10 years ago [to date]. From there, the award has been handed to the Mannings, Mahomeses, Bradys, and Rodgers around the country.
Earlier this month, Jefferson also mentioned to the media, “I’m the Most Valuable Player in my own eyes. Getting the award would be fantastic but to be in the discussion is good enough.”
He’ll have to “settle” for Offensive Player of the Year because that award is almost assuredly on the way.
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 Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).