In what may have devolved into a “favorite player” instead of a “most irreplaceable” poll, Minnesota Vikings fans have spoken.
About half of Vikings enthusiasts surveyed in an unscientific poll conducted by VikingsTerritory chose wideout Justin Jefferson as the franchise’s most irreplaceable commodity heading into 2022.
Jefferson is the subject of skyscraping expectations in 2022, including some NFL pundits — especially of the fantasy football variety — suggesting the LSU alumnus could tally 2,000+ yards. No player in NFL history has reached the mark, but former Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson came within 36 yards in 2012.
That’s how much potential Jefferson possesses inside a new Vikings offense led by first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell. In 2021, O’Connell helped massage Cooper Kupp from the Los Angeles Rams to galactic receiving totals, so various experts think Jefferson is next.
And Vikings fans evidently agree, tabbing Jefferson as the player the team can least afford to lose.
Four thousand two hundred fifty-four people responded to the poll.
Kirk Cousins, the team’s unabashed QB1, was curiously not the poll leader, even though Minnesota’s season would likely tumble without him. The Vikings traded for Nick Mullens from the Las Vegas Raiders last week, so the team could potentially stay afloat with him in the saddle. But Mullens doesn’t have a Super Bowl trek in his DNA.
Jefferson will be the Vikings offense’s focal point, similar to the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Under Mike Zimmer, who was terminated eight months ago, Minnesota brandished a “run-first” offense while still targeting Jefferson more than any player in NFL history through a player’s first two seasons. The working theory suggests Jefferson will receive more attention with a “pass-first” skipper in O’Connell.
Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks received nearly an identical amount of love in the poll, but even combined, the defenders nowhere near reached Jefferson or Cousins’ status.
Finally, regarding the irreplaceable responses, public opinion about the Vikings is all over the map. Vegas sportsbooks foresee 9.5 wins, a total that could plop Minnesota in a wildcard playoff game. Some consider the Vikings absolutely destined to repeat the 8-9 performance from 2021. Other credible analysts, like former MVP Rich Gannon, envision Cousins throwing for 5,000+ yards and Jefferson turning into a Jerry Rice-like asset — thus abraiding Minnesota into a historic offensive juggernaut.
But for “the folks,” Minnesota cannot lose Jefferson to injury. That’s the almighty fear.
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).