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Justin Jefferson rising in NFL wide receiver ranks

According to an ESPN poll, anyway

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

We talked briefly yesterday about the position of running back Dalvin Cook on ESPN’s list of the best running backs in the National Football League. Today, the four-letter has moved on to the wide receiver position, where another member of the Minnesota Vikings is prominently featured.

Justin Jefferson finds himself in the Top 5 of ESPN’s poll of personnel around the National Football League. Just like Cook, Jefferson checks in at #4 on his list, trailing only Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, and. . .in, perhaps, a little bit of a surprise. . .his former LSU teammate, Ja’Marr Chase.

Here’s what the commentary had to say about Jefferson:

Jefferson was an ascending star after his 2020 rookie year. Now, he’s a bona fide star after his sophomore year. He put together a near-perfect season, recording a stellar 90.1 Pro Football Focus rating after catching 108 of his 168 targets for 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns. Jefferson also ranked 14th in yards per catch (15.0), which is impressive considering his usage.

The Vikings didn’t hide their intentions to force-feed Jefferson the ball, no matter the coverage. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the LSU product recorded 2,060 air yards, which was 45.2% of the team’s total output, 3% higher than any other player in the league. And despite the presence of Adam Thielen, Jefferson also saw 28.9% of Minnesota’s targets, the third-most in the NFL.

“He’s not a burner, but he’s got everything else,” an NFL offensive coach said. “Instincts, competitive, great route-runner, can win at all levels of the field.”

But even the burner conversation seems moot after Jefferson ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash before the 2020 draft and broke 11 plays for 30-plus yards in 2021. As multiple scouts and coaches said, I’ll take his speed all day.

“He wants to be the best in the game, and you can feel that,” an AFC coach said. “He’ll get a gazillion targets in that [new Vikings] offense.”

Nobody put Jefferson in the top spot on their list, as his highest ranking was at #2. At least one person hasn’t been paying attention over the past couple of seasons, as Jefferson’s lowest ranking is shown as “outside the top ten.” The only players that received first-place votes were the three players already mentioned that finished ahead of Jefferson and former Viking Stefon Diggs, who got at least one nod for the top spot but finished at #6 overall in the rankings.

The last sentence from the ESPN commentary is pretty nice to see, and something that was emphasized in the video about the “Cooper Kupp role” from Brett Kollman that we featured last week. If he can continue to stay healthy, Jefferson has a very good chance of putting up even greater numbers this year than he has in his first two record-setting seasons.

Jefferson’s teammate, Adam Thielen, appeared in the “also receiving votes” section of the article. He’s still a threat, no doubt, but the new Vikings’ offense is going to be all about Justin Jefferson going forward. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing it.