Aaron Rodgers didn’t leave Minnesota without telling Vikings star receiver Justin Jefferson exactly how he felt about his current level of play.
After Jefferson torched the Green Bay Packers defense for nine catches, 184 yards and two touchdowns in Green Bay’s season-opening 23-7 loss on September 11, Rodgers sought out the former first-round pick after the game and paid him one of the highest compliments a receiver can get, especially from one who’s won the NFL MVP award four times.
“[You were] the best player on the field today,” Rodgers told him as they embraced in a moment the NFL captured on video.
A few of the words Rodgers said to Jefferson were muffled, but there were some who thought they heard him call the Vikings star “the best player in the game today.”
That could still mean he was talking about their specific matchup on Sunday or it could be interpreted as him calling Jefferson the new best wide receiver in the league. That seems unlikely, though, given that Rodgers has frequently handed that distinction to friend and former teammate Davante Adams. Adams, now with the Las Vegas Raiders, had a strong day of his own with 10 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown in a 24-19 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Rodgers Loved Jefferson Heading Into 2020 NFL Draft
Rodgers has been a big fan of Jefferson’s ever since before the Vikings took him in the 2020 draft. He actually had hoped at the time that the Packers would draft Jefferson for themselves after a lack of receiving talent helped contribute to their loss in the 2020 NFC Championship Game a few months earlier.
“When they [traded] up, I was watching the draft and thinking about which receiver might be there at that time,” Rodgers told Kyle Brandt of The Ringer in July 2020. “There was a run on them there in the early 20s, the kid from LSU [Jefferson] who I loved watching went to Minnesota in the early 20s, I knew the kid from Clemson [Tee Higgins] was still there, I enjoyed watching him but didn’t know as much about him, and the kid from Arizona State [Brandon Aiyuk] as well
“So, when they traded up, I perked up a little bit.”
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Packers had tried trading up for Jefferson in the first round from their original spot at No. 30 overall, but they were unable to get a deal done and watched the Vikings take him off the board. They also targetted another one of Rodgers’ favorites — Aiyuk, the current San Francisco 49ers receiver — but ultimately pulled the trigger on an infamous trade that moved them up to No. 26 for Utah State quarterback Jordan Love.
Packers Need More From Receiving Corps in Week 2
From the first snap, the Packers’ offense struggled to pass the ball. Rodgers threw a perfect deep ball to a wide-open Christian Watson on the first play of their opening drive, but the second-round rookie dropped the would-be 75-yard touchdown pass. It was the type of missed opportunity that seemed to set the tone for their offense for the afternoon.
The Packers made efforts to spread the ball out more with Adams no longer in the offense and starter Allen Lazard absent with an ankle injury. Rodgers tagged 10 different players with at least one completion on the day, but the impact of the receivers was somewhat minimal with power back AJ Dillon leading the team in both receptions (five) and receiving yards (46). That’s because when the opportunities were there, the Packers kept hurting themselves with mental mistakes.
“Obviously, it’d be great to have a 75-yard touchdown to start the game,” Rodgers said in the postgame. “But drops are going to happen. It’s part of the game. It’s the mental stuff that we just can’t have because we’re hurting ourselves. Whether we’re going the wrong way on a block or missing a protection something or missing a hot [route] or not running the right route [at] the right depth, there was just too many mental mistakes.”
The Packers will get a chance to redeem themselves in their home opener against the Chicago Bears for Sunday Night Football in Week 2.