Can Justin Jefferson Get Even Better?

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

With the full Vikings roster soon to arrive at training camp, PurplePTSD is counting down the top 10 pressing, perplexing, puzzling and questions as the fateful day – July 25th – inches closer. Today’s focus rests on the #5 question:

Can Justin Jefferson somehow get better?

Grading the Vikings Position Groups: Offense
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Truthfully, it’s a bit hard to envision #18 improving what has been a marvellous start to his career. His stats are historically great, resetting franchise records held by Hall of Fame players like Cris Carter (single-season catches) and Randy Moss (single-season yards). Meanwhile, he has snagged the Offensive Player of the Year Award, was an MVP runner up, and has been either a second- or first-team All Pro over his initial trio of years.

So, things have gone better than anyone could have ever expected. What’s stunning is that he can still get better.

Can Justin Jefferson Keep Getting Better?

Change has been a constant since Jefferson entered the NFL in 2020.

Initially, Gary Kubiak was coordinating the offense. The elder Kubiak then decided to hang up his cleats (so to speak), making room for his son, Klint, to take over. The younger Kubiak coordinated the offense in 2021 but was canned alongside Mike Zimmer. Kevin O’Connell then took over, implementing his offense in 2022.

Vikings Set Training Camp Schedule
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell and wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) talk during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Jefferson has thus had this situation since entering the NFL:

  • 2020: Gary Kubiak
  • 2021: Klint Kubiak
  • 2022: Kevin O’Connell (w/ a side dish of Wes Phillips)

Does the WR1 get better simply because of being able to grow in a single offense in consecutive seasons? At the very least, Jefferson will be able to focus on refining his craft a bit more instead of needing to learn a new system. A welcome change, to be sure.

Capturing 1,400 yards as a rookie was an unexpectedly elite mark. His 1,616 yards as a sophomore locked him in as truly being among the game’s best wide receivers. Sailing up to 1,809 yards last year made him the consensus WR1 in the NFL. If the trend persists — adding around 200 yards per year — Jefferson will become the first receiver in league history to surpass the 2,000-yard mark. No guarantee, but certainly within the realm of possibility.

Not bad.

Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) scores a touchdown on a pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins (not pictured) against the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

An area where he could still improve is in the touchdown department. During his final season in college, Jefferson piled up 18 TDs. While in the big leagues, Jefferson hasn’t been able to get to that range.

In 2022, Jefferson scored 8 times through the air (adding another on the ground), a minor drop off from the 10 touchdowns in 2021 (his career high). Being able to push that scoring total to 12+ on a consistent basis would seemingly shore up the only area of his game that appears “very good” instead of “elite.”

Oh, and one more thing: I cannot wait for the Week 8 game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau. The Jaire Alexander matchup is going to be must-see TV. I’ve got my money of the Vikings’ receiver.

Editor’s Note: The “Countdown Questions” series is a 10-day look at some of the most important questions facing the Minnesota Vikings as training camp nears. Be sure to keep swinging by to check out the latest installment and to read what has already been covered: #10, #9, #8, #7, & #6.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Sports Reference CFB helped with this piece.

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