It’s taken two starts for the NFL to take notice of why Justin Jefferson was regarded as the most pro-ready wide receiver in his draft class.
The LSU product has held a vendetta, vowing to make the four teams that picked a wide receiver before him in the draft pay — and the Vikings are reaping the benefits.
Despite seeing limited action in his first two games, Jefferson’s back-to-back 100-plus yard performances in his first two career starts have contributed to a historic start. Jefferson posted the fourth-most receiving yards (348) in the first four weeks of a season by a rookie since 1970.
He responded to the accolade in a tweet that went viral, saying “I’m not done yet.”
The LSU product is eighth in the league in receiving yards (348) despite playing in a limited capacity in his first two weeks. Considering there was no preseason, Jefferson said after the Texans game that he feels he’s just getting warmed up after the first four games of his career.
“I guess you could say this is my preseason,” he said. “I’m just getting started.”
Jefferson is the highest-graded receiver in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, while teammate Adam Thielen is No. 2.
Die-hard Vikings fan? Follow the Heavy on Vikings Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content out of Skol Nation!
Just a Slot Receiver?
The knock against Jefferson coming out of college was his strict role as a slot receiver in LSU’s pro-style offense and if he could create the same separation against NFL cornerbacks. Jefferson caught 100 of his NCAA-leading 111 catches last season in the slot, but his ability to win contested throws has proven to translate at the next level.
Jefferson had the highest contested-catch percentage (92.3) in college due to his knack for attacking the ball and separating from coverage. These abilities shined in his breakout performance in Week 3 against Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler.
Four weeks into the season and Thielen admitted he’s borrowed some techniques from Jefferson as the rookie has shown his abilities to create separation in and out of routes have been bar none.
He is the only rookie wide receiver to post a 90-plus PFF rating through four games since PFF started in 2006.
Jefferson’s Odds For Rookie of the Year Improving
Before the season started, Jefferson’s odds to win Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY) were at +2800. The Vikings passing game through the first two weeks reflected what a longshot it’d be for Jefferson to win the award.
But since his first start, the Vikings offense has shown improvements with Jefferson being a driver of production. His odds for OROY are now +1300, per DraftKings, which is tied for fourth with Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow remains the favorite to win the award. Jefferson could become the first wide receiver to win the award since fellow LSU alumnus Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014.
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.