Foremost, scouting reports on Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson were primarily credible. It would be fallacious to assert that Jefferson was an untapped gem. The only oddity in the aftermath of the 2020 season is that Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Jalen Reagor were chosen in the draft ahead of Jefferson.
Why? Because Jefferson – as has been widely broadcast – set the NFL rookie record for receiving yards with 1,400. He was also chipped in seven touchdowns. The closest rookie to Jefferson in the yards metric was Lamb who fell short of the rookie-yard mark by 465 yards. And to be fair, fellow first-year wideout, Chase Claypool, pulled down two more touchdowns than Jefferson.
Other than that, the Vikings selection of Jefferson was a 500-foot homerun. By midseason, the 21-year-old was the team’s WR1. He was forcing Vikings enthusiasts to channel memories of Randy Moss in 1998 (minus the gobs of touchdowns).
Jefferson is also affable. To date, he has shown no diva-like qualities and even goes out of his way to exhibit inverse vibes. He was congratulatory of Justin Herbert for winning the meaningful version of the Rookie of the Year award. In a solemn manner, Jefferson seems like a “locker room guy.”
So, what did the scouts get wrong? There is a lot, but here are some of the biggies.
“Could Be Better Off as WR”
This one is comical because the opposite of the proclamation became evident early on.
Among seven weaknesses of Jefferson’s game, Walter Football declared that the LSU pass-catcher might be best served as a complementary piece to a true-blue WR1.
This is the full casserole of Jefferson supposed weaknesses per Walter Football:• Not a burner• May lack deep speed for the NFL• Leaner frame• May not be a big separation receiver• Could be better off as a No. 2 receiver• Could stand to fill out his frame• Should add strength
The “Could be better off as a No. 2 recevier” knock on Jefferson is laughable because he was targeted more than any other rookie since 2015 – and emphatically answered the call. He commanded 125 targets – which might have been too low – while setting an NFL record.
Jefferson can handle the WR1 title. It took about three weeks for the world to learn this.
“Dominated the Slot…”
Oh, yes, the insult thrown at pre-2019 Stefon Diggs is in full effect here. A “slot” guy was the most boisterous criticism of Jefferson’s skill set before he joined the NFL. He played alongside oodles of talent in LSU, so folks presumed he was maybe an overhyped slant sultan. Wrong.
This one was cooked up by Bleacher Report. And again, in fairness, sometimes players just rapidly improve or mature. Such was the case with Jefferson.
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report wrote this of Jefferson’s potential shortcomings:• Dominated from the slot in an offense loaded with offensive weapons in 2019.• Tape makes you question his ability to create space on his own.• Almost no experience against press coverage.• Drops show up a decent amount on his tape, enough to be a concern.
Jefferson led the entire NFL in 25+ yard receptions in 2020. That’s right – more than deep-ball artists like Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins, and D.K. Metcalf. Jefferson grabbed 16 catches of 25 yards or more.
If this is the prognosis of slot-only pass-catchers, well, more men should focus on slot assignments in college. It bodes well for NFL performance. Deep-ball prowess was no problem for Jefferson in 2020. He flat-out stretched the field.
“Technique as a Route Runner Could Use Cleaning Up”
Along with Jerry Jeudy early on in the pandemic season, Jefferson’s route-running was not suspect. In fact, it was applauded. Onlookers were awed at seamlessness on display as Jefferson did not provide one iota of route-running deficiency – especially for a player that replaced the departed-to-Buffalo Diggs. On the field, Jefferson and Diggs resembled each other for route-running acumen, and Diggs is a route-running demigod. And remember – Jefferson is 21 years old. Diggs is a wide receiver in the prime of his career, six years the senior of Jefferson.
One cannot struggle with route-running and snag 1,400 receiving yards. The two assertions are incongruent.
This is what DraftWire said of Jefferson’s rooms for improvement:
“While Jefferson proved to be capable of separating at the collegiate level, one has to wonder how much of that was related to scheme. He’s a good athlete, but his technique as a route runner could use some cleaning up. His footwork can be a little sloppy at times, and he can struggle to sink his hips into his breaks and make sharp cuts.”
These are falsehoods.