Through age 22, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson owns the most receiving yards in NFL history (3,016) and the fifth-most receiving touchdowns (17).
The Vikings found Jefferson in the 1st Round of the 2020 NFL Draft after the club traded a disgruntled Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills in the spring of 2020. In return, Minnesota received picks that turned into Camryn Bynum (S), Zach Davidson (TE), Janarius Robinson (EDGE), Kenny Willekes (EDGE), and of course, Jefferson.
To date, the transaction has been marvelous for both organizations as Jefferson is setting records for the Vikings, and Diggs is the focal point of the Bills offense that has reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. In fact, some entities believe Jefferson has already passed Diggs for league stardom, evidenced on Monday by CBS Sports’ 2022 WR rankings, authored by Cody Benjamin.
According to Benjamin, this is the league’s WR pecking order:
- Davante Adams (LV)
- Justin Jefferson (MIN)
- Ja’Marr Chase (CIN)
- Cooper Kupp (LAR)
- Stefon Diggs (BUF)
- Tyreek Hill (MIA)
- Mike Evans (TB)
- Deebo Samuel (SF)
- Keenan Allen (LAC)
- A.J. Brown (PHI)
Benjamin said of Jefferson, who heads into Year Three this September, “The slender No. 1 is the perfect contemporary wideout — lightning fast with good hands, good height and good routes. Nothing against Kirk Cousins, but imagine if he played with Patrick Mahomes, too. He’s one of the safest bets to rack up both volume and highlight-reel touchdowns.”
Jefferson’s career takes another turn in 2022 as the LSU alumnus sets sails in an offense not of the run-first variety for the first in his professional career. So far for Jefferson, ex-head coach Mike Zimmer was in charge, and he preferred to run the ball with Dalvin Cook as the priority. Now, though, with Kevin O’Connell taking over the organization, Jefferson should be showcased like Cooper Kupp with the Rams in 2021 — early and often.
The change stands to benefit Jefferson, who has three years left on his rookie contract. In about nine months, extension talks will heat up between Jefferson and the Vikings, and the young wideout is expected to fetch about $35 million per season, resetting the market. The deal won’t kick in until 2025, but superstars typically get “taken care of” well before the expiration of a rookie contract.
And that’s how it goes for a player classified as the second-best in the business by CBS Sports. The importance of game-changing WRs is turning into the “new RB” in football, and Jefferson is on ground zero for the movement.
Jefferson needs 1,148 receiving yards to stay ahead of the pace for most receiving yards through a player’s first three seasons. He already owns the “through first two seasons” record.
Randy Moss possesses the most receiving yards through a player’s first three seasons with 4,163.
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 Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).