Minnesota Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson made waves his rookie year.
While most of his peers were just trying to outdo their fellow rookies, Jefferson supplanted himself as the standalone best rookie wideout and among the league’s elite, earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors in his first professional season.
He finished the regular season ranked fourth in receiving yards with 1,400, breaking the Super Bowl-era record, and sixth in yards per game (87.5) despite not starting in the Vikings’ first two games.
Jefferson has already made plans to train with the best wide receivers in the league this season to ensure an even better sophomore campaign. He will be training at Brandon Marshall’s House of Athlete in Florida, where, a surprising challenger has emerged who could bring out the best in Jefferson.
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Chad ‘Ochocinco’ Johnson on Justin Jefferson: ‘I Will Lock Him Up’
A fan on Twitter made an innocent comment of how good Jefferson could be if he trained with former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson. Johnson was a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro honoree in his 11-year career as the Bengals’ all-time leader in receiving yards and receptions.
He is also one of the biggest personalities at the position since Terrell Owens with a heavy presence on social media. When Johnson saw the tweet, he did not shy away from issuing a challenge to Jefferson.
“I will personally lock him up in 1 on 1’s & give a power point tutorial on route running,” Johnson tweeted.
Jefferson accepted the challenge, replying “say less be there Monday.”
Similarities in Chad Johnson and Justin Jefferson
Time will determine if Jefferson can carve a legacy to a similar degree that Johnson has in the league, but the 21-year-old is off to a good start.
It took Johnson three years to earn his first Pro Bowl at the age of 25 and five years to surpass 1,400 receiving yards in a single season — both feats Jefferson accomplished his rookie year.
What made Johnson excel was his route-running, quick feet and body control that helped him create separation for long gains and also come down with the ball in tight coverage.
Jefferson was touted coming out of college for his body control, a trait that was overshadowed by critiques that he only played in the slot his senior year at LSU. Jefferson played primarily outside in his junior year, often an afterthought given the prolific numbers he produced as a senior.
He proved the critics wrong this season becoming both a threat in the slot and as a deep threat, largely through his ability to create separation and produce highlight-worthy plays solely on his route-running.
Jefferson came out of college a much more physically gifted receiver than Johnson with strong marks in the 40-yard dash (4.43, 76th percentile), vertical jump (37.5 inches, 77th percentile, broad jump (126 inches, 83rd percentile) and arm length (33 inches, 78th percentile), per Mockdraftables.
Jefferson, without rookie minicamps and a true preseason, exceeded expectations in his first year. Now, he’ll have an offseason to recuperate and study his game, potentially with the help of Johnson and other elite wideouts in the league.
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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.