Minnesota Vikings star wide receiver Justin Jefferson is calling his chance by saying he will be the best at his position by the end of the 2022 NFL season. Jefferson’s bold proclamation has been the talk of Twitter, but he may not be far off. The third year wideout offered his thoughts in a recent interview with Complex:
“I will say that after this year I will be the best receiver in the NFL. I definitely have to give it to Davante Adams from now on, he is so crazy and dynamic on the pitch. Walking his route is crazy so I definitely have to give it to him now, but I’m pretty sure I will be after this year. ”
If Jefferson continues the same upward projection from his first two years in the league, he will no doubt have a good argument. Jefferson has the most receiving yards (3,016) in NFL history for a player in his first two seasons. Jefferson increased his catch total by 20 catches from year one to two.
The stats are there and Jefferson has a quarterback good enough in Kirk Cousins to potentially hit this target. With Jefferson in the lineup, Cousins threw more than 30 touchdowns in consecutive seasons for the first time in his career. They have the connection and chemistry down. Now it’s time to start winning some games. Minnesota has finished below .500 for the past two seasons.
While Jefferson praised Adams, he’s not the only receiver who will have to hinder Jefferson from claiming best in league status. We can get players like Cooper Kupp, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyree Hill, and Stefon Diggs, just to name a few. These receivers have one thing in common. They all caught more than 100 balls in 2021.
However, Jefferson has one distinct advantage over every other wideout mentioned, and that’s how strong he was at the start of his career. As mentioned above, Jefferson blows the others out of the water in production in the first two years.
Wagering his claim
Jefferson had 196 receptions in his first two years. This ties him to Michael Thomas for the most catches in the first two years of a career. Hill and Diggs are closest to Jefferson in catches in their first two seasons with 136. Yards per game is where Jefferson really excelled, averaging 91.4. Next best in this category was Hopkins with 62.9 ypg in his first two NFL campaigns.
Other than Hill, it took more than a year or two for these other recipients to become household names throughout the competition. And playing for Andy Reid and catching passes from Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City certainly helped raise his profile. Jefferson doesn’t have the luxury of playing for a middle-class franchise like the Vikings.
The one thing Jefferson can’t claim the others can do is win football. The other five named recipients were on playoff teams last season. Hopkins was injured and missed half of the year, but the Cardinals made it through the postseason. It’s one thing to post outrageous stats about a team going nowhere, but doing it for a winner is what takes you to another level.
Of course, if you’re playing a dependent position, like a wide receiver, you can only control so much. That doesn’t mean Jefferson can’t or won’t climb to the top of WR mountain, but it means so much more when you’re doing it for a winner. I’m not saying the Vikings should win the Super Bowl. But making the playoffs coupled with another incredible year for Jefferson could cement his top spot.
The younger generation
However, Jefferson is not alone on an island. These receivers he has mentioned on the right have a few more years of experience behind them. But there are other young pass catchers on the way who will no doubt have something to say about Jefferson’s potential claim to the throne.
Ja’Marr PursuitJaylen Waddle and Deebo Samuel, among other things, make a lot of noise around the NFL. As a pass catcher, I would put Jefferson above these young receivers heading into 2022. But when you look at a player like Samuel who can do so much for an attack, you can’t tell me that his contribution to the team is as valuable as Jefferson’s or anyone else’s.
With so many good receivers in the league, it won’t be easy for Jefferson to grab and hold onto that #1 WR in the league title. You could say that Adams, Hopkins, Hill and Kupp have all been considered the best wideout in the NFL in recent years. I have no doubts about Jefferson’s ability to jump into the conversation and take the crown. But how long he manages to stay there is what everyone is looking at.