The National Football League released its list of All-Pros Friday with one glaring omission from the first-team roster — Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
Jefferson was relegated to the second team for the second straight season, missing the top honor by a solitary vote. Courtney Cronin, Vikings reporter for ESPN, broke down the selections on Twitter.
“Vikings WR Justin Jefferson is second-team All-Pro for a second consecutive year,” Cronin wrote. “49ers’ Deebo Samuel (21) beat Jefferson for the 3rd receiver spot by one vote. Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp and Samuel are the 3 first-team All-Pro receivers.”
Jefferson Lost Final All-Pro Spot to Samuel by Slimmest of Margins
As it turned out, Jefferson was edged out just slightly by Samuel. The San Francisco 49ers wideout earned 21 of 50 votes from AP sportswriters across the nation, while Jefferson was able to muster just 20. Wideout Ja’Marr Chase, Jefferson’s college teammate at Louisiana State University (LSU), garnered 9 votes following his rookie season with the Cincinnati Bengals, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Adams, who set Green Bay Packers franchise records for catches (123) and receiving yards (1,553) in a single-season, was selected unanimously with 50 out of 50 possible votes.
Kupp had a career year for the Los Angeles Rams, becoming just the fourth pass catcher in history to win the NFL’s wide receiver version of the triple crown by leading the league in catches (145), receiving yards (1,947), and receiving touchdowns (16). He, too, was selected unanimously.
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Had the case for first-team All-Pro between Jefferson and Samuel come down to pass catching alone, the Vikings wideout would have won the honor going away. Jefferson started all 17 games for Minnesota this season, catching 108 balls for 1,616 yards and 10 TDs, per Pro Football Reference.
Samuel started 15 games for the 49ers, appearing in 16 total, and caught 77 passes for 1,405 yards and 6 TDs. However, Samuel was also utilized frequently in the Niners’ run game. He was San Francisco’s second-leading rusher with 365 yards on 59 carries, which added up to the third-highest number of attempts on the roster, per CBS Sports. Samuel also found the end zone more frequently than any of his backfield counterparts, scoring 8 TDs on the ground.
To cap off his case, Samuel was 1 for 2 throwing the football and completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jauan Jennings in a must-win Week 18 victory over the Rams that landed the Niners in the NFC Playoffs.
Both wideouts clearly merited first-team honors. The strongest case against Samuel is that he was named an All-Pro wide receiver for his cumulative accomplishments, many of which had nothing to do with running routes or catching the ball. The circumstances argue for the NFL to put an extra spot on the team for a so-called utility man, which could have gone to Samuel as a three-tool offensive weapon and allowed Jefferson to claim the title of All-Pro as a wide receiver.
NFL Universe Unhappy With Jefferson’s Snub From All-Pro Team
Vikings fans and NFL aficionados alike were confused by Jefferson’s absence from the top All-Pro squad, and they let their feelings be known on Twitter Friday.
“THIS IS A JOKE. NO JUSTIN JEFFERSON?! #LSU,” @FredFromPlano wrote.
Another Twitter user simply laid out the stats and figured that was enough said.
“Deebo Samuel made first team all-pro over Justin Jefferson,” @ClappedDan wrote. “Jefferson: 108 REC 1,616 YD 10 TD. Deebo: 77 REC 1,405 YD 6 TD.”
Still others got a little more creative and avant garde with their online objections.
Aaron Nagler, co-founder of CheeseheadTV, posted a black and white meme of an older man looking down despondently with the caption, “Once and for all I have to escape this junkyard of idiotic trivialities.”
And finally, there were simply sports coverage outlets that tweeted out the facts.
“List of players in NFL history with 3,000 receiving yards in their first 2 seasons: Justin Jefferson,” CBS Sports HQ wrote. “END. OF. LIST.”
Jefferson will have a chance to earn the honor again in 2022 under a new regime, after former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and former head coach Mike Zimmer were each fired one day after a disappointing 8-9 season ended in Minnesota.
Jefferson may also be working with a new quarterback, as rumors that QB Kirk Cousins could be on the move via the trade market continue to pick up steam.