Justin Jefferson is already plotting on how to prove doubters wrong again in 2021.
The Minnesota Vikings rookie vowed to make all five teams that took a wide receiver over him in last year’s NFL Draft pay, producing one of the strongest rookie wide receiver seasons in league history by setting a Super Bowl era record in receiving yards (1,400).
That was not enough for Jefferson to win the Associated Press’ Offensive Rookie of the Year award, which went to Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert instead.
While fans on social media are in an uproar over the Associated Press snubbing Jefferson, his eyes are already onto the bigger picture.
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Why Jefferson Should Have Won
The argument that Offensive Rookie of the Year is simply a quarterback award doesn’t quite hold much ground with only three quarterbacks have won it in the past six years. Rookie quarterbacks rarely start, let alone excel the way Herbert did.
He broke every conceivable rookie quarterback record for passing yards (4,336), passing touchdowns (31) and the most completions (380). All are worthy of recognition, however, Herbert’s season was about how volume over efficiency.
Herbert had the fourth-most pass attempts in the league and finished the season ranked 15th in competition percentage. Rookie passing records seem to be broken perennially as the NFL continues to move toward more emphasis in the passing game. Baker Mayfield owned the rookie touchdown passes record before Herbert and has since fizzled into a middle-tier quarterback.
Jefferson, on the other hand, broke Anquan Boldin’s rookie receiving yards record that stood for 17 years. He did so making the most of his opportunities — not starting until the third week of the season.
Jefferson finished the season with the fourth-most receiving yards (1,400) among all NFL wide receivers despite seeing the 18th most targets. He earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors, neither of which Herbert was awarded.
Jefferson also led the league in receptions of 25 or more yards, a feat debunking his critics who believed he was only a slot receiver.
It’s Not a QB Award, Just Not a WR Award
Only four wide receivers have won Offensive Rookie of the Year since 1998 in Randy Moss (1998), Boldin (2003), Percy Harvin (2009) and Odell Beckham Jr. (2014).
Likely due to their reliance on quarterbacks, receivers tend to fall by the wayside when it comes to the award. Ten running backs have won the award since 1998, which offers more parity than it seems since Herbert and Kyler Murray have won the award back-to-back.
Regardless of who would have won, based on past precedent, it would have been a shame if either Herbert or Jefferson lost. Quarterbacks are often valued as the most important position in the offense, and Herbert did prove his value to the Chargers.
However, Herbert managed six wins in his first season. Had the Vikings made the playoffs, Jefferson may have been credited with his contributions to the effort and potentially overcame Herbert for the award.
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