Jefferson will finish with over 100 receiving yards
When training camp started, the drumbeat revolving around Vikings rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson was deafening.
As Bisi Johnson called him a star and Gary Kubiak said Jefferson was “exactly what we drafted,” the first-round pick mentioned that the offense was similar to the one he ran at LSU, and many predicted a quick transition in an effort to replace Stefon Diggs.
However, that’s where the hype ended with reports coming out of training camp that Johnson had usurped him as the No. 2 receiver and Jefferson was relegated more to working out of the slot.
As the season begins, the question is how much has Jefferson improved, and can he help out this Vikings offense immediately as many originally thought? This seems like throwing caution to the wind, but there’s an outside chance that could be the case even though he’s playing in the slot.
With 98.5 percent of his production coming from the slot during his final season at LSU, this feels like a case of Minnesota playing to the strengths of a receiver that didn’t have a normal offseason and got off to a late start after being placed on the COVID-19 list at the beginning of training camp.
As Johnson steps up on the outside, the Vikings could feel more comfortable using three-receiver sets than they did a year ago. That would lend time for Jefferson to get on the field and be the security blanket for Kirk Cousins for when Johnson and Adam Thielen are covered.
There’s a chance that Johnson will have a huge advantage when it comes to snaps played, but Jefferson might not need many to make an impact. With the likelihood that Cousins might not have time to throw it deep behind his offensive line on Sunday, a quick pass to Jefferson and his yards after the catch ability could yield big results.