Can Justin Jefferson break the recent bust of first-round draft picks for the Vikings?
Justin Jefferson is the eighth wide receiver drafted by the Vikings in the first round. The best of this class is by far Randy Moss. In his hall of fame career, Moss played eight seasons with the Vikings and ranks second in receptions, yards, and touchdowns behind Cris Carter.
Since drafting Moss 21st overall in 1998, the Vikings have missed on three of their last four first-round picks used on wide receivers. The four receivers drafted include Troy Williamson (seventh pick 2005), Percy Harvin (22nd pick 2009), Cordarrelle Patterson (29th pick 2013) and Laquon Treadwell (23rd pick 2016). The best receiver of this bunch is Harvin who caught 280 passes for 3,302 yards and 20 touchdowns.
None of these players lasted more than four seasons with the Vikings.
Playing only two seasons at LSU, Jefferson finished with 165 receptions for 2,415 yards and 24 touchdowns. That is more yards and touchdowns than the Vikings’ last first-round draft pick, Treadwell. In three seasons at Ole Miss, Treadwell finished with 202 receptions for 2,393 yards and 21 touchdowns. It is also more receptions, yards, and touchdowns than Williamson had while playing at South Carolina. In three seasons, Williamson finished with 91 receptions for 1,754 yards and 13 touchdowns.
What will help Jefferson in his transition to the NFL is last season LSU passed more than they ran the ball – the norm for most NFL teams. Also, if Adam Thielen returns to WR1 form, there will be less pressure on Jefferson to contribute, allowing him more time to acclimate to the pro game. The situation is similar to when Moss joined the Vikings in 1998 with Cris Carter established as the top receiver.
This is a much better situation than when Williamson joined the Vikings in 2005. With no clear top receiver on the roster to replace Moss, the expectations were extremely high for Williamson. That year tight end Jermaine Wiggins led the Vikings with 69 receptions. Williamson finished with only 24 receptions—the seventh most on the team.
The last comparison breaks down when looking at the Treadwell situation. Perhaps the problem had too much talent wide receiver with Thielen and Stefon Diggs firmly established as the starters along with Patterson and Jarius Wright making up the unit.
At the time, receiver was not the most pressing need for the Vikings, and perhaps that was good since things did not work out for either side. After failing to make the final roster last season, only to be re-signed early in the season, Treadwell has made a complete break from the team signing as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons.
Overall, Jefferson is coming into a good situation—there is a need on the roster with a very good veteran that will alleviate some of the pressure he will face this season.