The Minnesota Vikings selected Justin Jefferson with their 22nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. After the departure of Stefon Diggs, it was clear the Vikings were going to select a wide receiver at some point of the draft. When Jefferson fell to 22 it was a no brainer for the front office, since the team was already considering moving up to land the former LSU star.
The Vikings have received some criticism for not addressing the offensive line before receiver, even though they landed one of the top receivers in this historically deep class.
Another topic of criticism that gets brought up frequently is the Vikings first round history when it comes to the receiver position. This seems to be one of the biggest frustrations with the side of the fanbase that is upset about the Jefferson selection. When this argument gets brought up, it seems as if the Matt Kalil fourth overall selection in 2012 gets lost in time.
It’s understandable with the Laquon Treadwell selection in 2016 being a complete bust that some may want to draw comparisons between him and Jefferson. However, the Vikings are getting a completely different receiver in Jefferson and he shouldn’t be linked to the Treadwell selection that occurred four years ago.
Since 1998, the Vikings have selected six receivers in the first round.
1998 - Randy Moss
2005 - Troy Williamson
2009 - Percy Harvin
2013 - Cordarrelle Patterson
2016 - Laquon Treadwell
2020 - Justin Jefferson
Some of these receivers found success with the Vikings, whereas some had troubles finding the field consistently during their time in Minnesota. Moss is a Hall of Famer, Williamson had elite speed paired with severe drop issues, Harvin and Patterson were both great playmakers at times and Treadwell never lived up to his first-round hype.
Williamson came in with the hopes of replacing Moss whereas Jefferson has some big shoes to fill after getting selected with the pick the Vikings got for Diggs. The fear of Jefferson becoming another Treadwell or Williamson is understandable, but looking at analytical metrics and the stats proves that one of these names is not like the others.
In his final season at Ole Miss, Treadwell registered 82 catches for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns. The stats alone are impressive, but his analytical metrics were worrisome from day one.
According to PlayerProfiler.com, Treadwell’s 4.68 40-yard dash ranks in the 11th percentile, speed score in the 48th percentile and burst score in the 17th percentile. Despite putting good numbers on the stat sheet, Treadwell was not close to any of the above receivers in terms of athleticism.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Moss was both insanely productive during his time at Marshall and had athletic metrics that were virtually off the charts.
During his 1997 season, Moss hauled in 96 catches for 1,820 yards and 26 touchdowns. His 4.36 40-yard dash time ranks him in the 97th percentile, while his speed score is in the 98th percentile and burst score in the 99th percentile.
Of course, it is impossible to compare any of the receivers on the list above to Moss, as he is arguably the best to ever play the position. However, the analytics show that he was a freak type athlete, something Treadwell was never even close to becoming.
Williamson ran a 4.34 40-yard dash, but his other metrics were beneath the 30th percentile. He was fast, but had drop problems and was never as productive as Moss or Treadwell in college.
Jefferson is neither on the Treadwell or Moss end of the spectrum, but was both productive and well above average with his metrics.
He finished off his National Championship winning season with 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. The stats aren’t as crazy as Moss’ elite season with Marshall, but it is better than every other Vikings first round receiver since Moss.
On top of his great production, Jefferson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, ranking him in the 86th percentile. His speed score ranks in the 83rd percentile and his burst score ranks in the 80th percentile according to PlayerProfiler.com. With these metrics, the site’s most comparable athlete to Jefferson is former Colts receiver Reggie Wayne.
Another knock that Jefferson receives is due to the fact that the majority of his production came out of the slot. Adam Thielen has also seen a lot of his production come from the slot, but both receivers have the ability to bump out wide when needed. It seems likely that the two will rotate from the slot and outside receiver position with the Vikings, keeping opposing defenses on their toes.
Even though his production comes from the slot, Jefferson ranked as the best receiver in college football with contested catches. He has shown that he has sticky hands, good after the catch ability and the ability to go up and win jump balls.
It’s impossible to say how the Jefferson selection is going to pan out. Historically speaking, the receiver position has been hit or miss for the Vikings over the last 20 years within the first round. Jefferson is towards the top of the charts in terms of on-field production and workout metrics, so he shouldn’t be compared to the Treadwell selection in 2016.
With Diggs being a fifth-round draft pick and Thielen being undrafted, the Vikings have done a great job at finding talented receivers well after the first round in recent history. However, that shouldn't limit the front office in trying to fulfill one of the team’s biggest needs, and they did exactly that with selecting Jefferson 22nd overall.