In the rubble of the fallout that occurred between Stefon Diggs and the Minnesota Vikings, some flowers have emerged.
Diggs, who leads the league in receptions (120) and receiving yards (1459), has helped the Buffalo Bills (12-3) clinch their first AFC East title in 25 years after he was traded to the Bills back in March. National media outlets have clamored over his side of what took place in his final years in Minnesota.
Amid the buzzwords from a series of ESPN articles that insinuated the Vikings’ “betrayed” Diggs, the former 2015 fifth-round pick finally broke a silence surrounding the man who was unfairly pegged as his replacement, rookie Justin Jefferson.
Bleacher Report polled fans on Instagram of who should win Offensive Rookie of the Year, which garnered a surprising comment from Diggs, who wrote: “JEFFERSON DUHHHHH.”
.@stefondiggs says he wants to see Justin Jefferson win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
That's real. pic.twitter.com/ZlcrTLH7hj
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) December 25, 2020
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Jefferson Unfairly Named Diggs’ Replacement, Rises Above the Label
Drafted No. 22 overall with a pick received in the Diggs trade, Jefferson was labeled Diggs’ replacement, setting unfair expectations on the 21-year-old wideout from LSU.
Those expectations were tempered after Jefferson was perceived to be just a slot receiver coming out of college and did not start the first two games of the season.
But since then, Jefferson flourished, catching 79 passes for 1,267 yards in 15 games and 13 starts this season. Earning Pro Bowl honors, Jefferson is eighth in the league in receiving yards and has seven touchdowns on the season.
While Diggs has been one of the most productive wideouts in the league, Jefferson has proven to be one of the most efficient. Jefferson ranks third in yards per route run (2.83). He’s also shrugged off the notion of him only being a slot receiver, posting the fifth-most completed air yards in the league (915), proving to produce on deep routes and after the catch.
Jefferson has outperformed Diggs in several metrics when breaking their stats down by target share, per PlayerProfiler.
|Player||Completed Air Yards (per target)||Yards After Catch (per target)||Yards Per Target|
Diggs’ Praise Adds to Growing List of Supporters
Jefferson, who is still considered an underdog for Offensive Rookie of the Year behind Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, has received praise from many NFLers this season.
He received a signed jersey from New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Christmas with the message “You are the next generation of great ones! Keep ballin’! More importantly, keep inspiring” written on it.
After Jefferson caught nine passes for 121 yards and a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars to become the fifth rookie wide receiver since 1970 to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in their first 12 career games, Michael Thomas said “I have seen enough… [Justin Jefferson] is Rookie of the Year.”
Jefferson needs 46 receiving yards to break Randy Moss’ rookie receiving yards mark and 110 yards to surpass Anquan Boldin’s 1377 rookie receiving yards, the most in the Super Bowl era. He could reach both marks in Week 17 against the Detroit Lions if the Vikings play their starters.
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- Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.