We all know how fortunate the Minnesota Vikings were to have Justin Jefferson fall into their laps in the 2020 NFL Draft. He was the fourth wide receiver taken in that year’s selection meeting and the Philadelphia Eagles, who needed receiving help just as much as the Vikings did, were kind enough to take Jalen Reagor before the Vikings selected Jefferson at #22.
That wouldn’t happen if the 2020 NFL Draft were re-done, as two different sources have attested.
Both CBS Sports and Pro Football Focus have published 2020 re-drafts, and in both of them Jefferson would end up haunting the Vikings as a member of their division rivals, the Detroit Lions. Both of these re-drafts have the Lions grabbing Jefferson at #3 overall.
The logic from CBS Sports was pretty straightforward:
The Lions have to revamp the receiver corps, and they don’t hesitate to pick Jefferson this early.
PFF, on the other hand, went into a bit more detail:
Writing off Okudah as a “bust” is premature given the injuries he dealt with and the difficult responsibilities he was given out of the gate in Matt Patricia’s defense, but it’s safe to say Detroit would jump at the chance for a do-over.
Jefferson has quickly established himself as one of the NFL’s best wide receivers at just 23 years old. There were concerns coming out of LSU about his ability to win on the outside, particularly against press coverage, but Jefferson quickly rendered those concerns foolish with a 93.0 PFF grade against press coverage since 2020 that leads all wide receivers. He would have been an immediate contributor on a Lions’ roster that had Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and little else behind them at this point.
Thankfully, we’ll (likely) never ever see Justin Jefferson in Honolulu Blue.
So, how did these redrafts turn out for the Vikings? After all, they still would have had a pair of first-round picks as a result of the Stefon Diggs deal, but how would they have used them had Jefferson not been available?
CBS Sports has the purple selecting current Chicago Bears’ receiver Darnell Mooney at #22 and Pittsburgh Steelers’ edge defender Alex Highsmith at #25, not reflecting the trade down that saw them take the late Jeff Gladney at #31.
Mooney was a legitimate big-play threat for the Bears as a rookie and would fill in nicely next to Adam Thielen.
. . .
The Vikings bolster their defensive line with a high-motor rusher who demonstrated impressive play in Year 1 in the NFL.
PFF, on the other hand, has the Vikings taking a different current Bear at #22 in cornerback Jaylon Johnson and still trading back to #31 to select Houston Texans edge Jonathan Greenard.
Jefferson falling outside of the top-20 selections and into Minnesota’s lap was one of the steals of the 2020 NFL Draft. Unfortunately for the Vikings, there’s no chance for a repeat after two seasons of Jefferson torching the NFL.
This selection doesn’t fill the Vikings’ need for a wide receiver to pair with Adam Thielen, but Minnesota has also had a revolving cast of cornerbacks in recent years. Johnson has responded well to the No. 1 role he’s been forced into on the outside. There’s still some room for growth, but Johnson has been active at the catch point for Chicago, as his 15.3% forced incompletion rate ranks sixth among 64 cornerbacks with at least 100 targets since 2020.
. . .
Consistent pass-rushing production off the edge has been something that Minnesota has struggled to find over the last two years with Danielle Hunter missing significant chunks of time due to injury. The 2020 draft hasn’t yet yielded a high number of impact edge rushers, but Greenard’s development last season for Houston was promising. Greenard posted a borderline elite 89.2 PFF pass-rushing grade in limited action (215 pass-rush snaps). He’s a breakout candidate entering the 2022 season.
One interesting tidbit from the CBS re-draft is the Las Vegas Raiders selecting cornerback Cameron Dantzler at #12 overall, which at least I was surprised by. Dantzler’s name does not appear in the PFF re-draft.
I know these re-drafts don’t have any real impact on anything, but it is nice to see how well the Vikings made out with Jefferson’s selection in that year’s draft and what the potential alternatives could have been with the benefit of hindsight.
Plus it’s something else to talk about, and at this time of the year that’s always nice.