Why Sam Darnold gives Justin Jefferson a better shot to win MVP than Kirk Cousins

Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson
Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages

During the majority of his first four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Justin Jefferson caught passes from multi-time Pro Bowl quarterback Kirk Cousins.

In 2024, however, Jefferson will have to get used to life without Cousins being the one to find him out on the field, as the veteran signal-caller is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons.

Minnesota's All-Pro receiver still performed very well when the Vikings were forced to use their backup quarterbacks after Cousins tore his Achilles last year. But can Jefferson continue to play at an elite level if Sam Darnold or J.J. McCarthy is Minnesota's starting passer next season?

If Sam Darnold or J.J. McCarthy plays well in 2024, it could lead to Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson winning the NFL MVP award

During the latest episode of the "This is Football with Kevin Clark" podcast, ESPN's Kevin Clark and The 33rd Team's Dan Pizzuta went over some sleepers who could win the NFL MVP award next season, and Jefferson was one of the players mentioned.

First, Pizzuta shared a scenario that could potentially result in the Vikings receiver being named the league's MVP in 2024.

"If Justin Jefferson is putting up league-leading numbers as a wide receiver and he's carried either Sam Darnold or J.J. McCarthy to a great offense and a playoff spot, and maybe we don't have a standout quarterback, kind of like we did this past season where there wasn't one great quarterback season.

That's the type of season that I think we could see a non-quarterback win [MVP], and if Jefferson is still putting up the type of numbers and efficiency that [he's done in the past], and I think he's just quarterback-proof in a way because he's so good, [but] I think that's his path toward winning an MVP."

Next up was Clark, who agreed with Pizzuta and then shared why Jefferson could win MVP next season if Minnesota ends up being successful.

"If [the Vikings] win an extra three or four games that they shouldn't and they steal some games, you have to look at who's going to get the credit. It will not be the quarterback; in fact, as you alluded to, they might play two quarterbacks this year, it will be Justin Jefferson.

So basically, thanks to Darnold not living up to expectations in his NFL career so far and the fact that McCarthy is a rookie, any success that they have next season, the majority of the credit from the public will be given to Jefferson.

If Cousins was still with the Vikings and the team was able to play well in 2024, then he would have a better chance to get some MVP consideration due to the personal achievements he has already had in his career.

This scenario does make sense and it's one that Vikings fans might be more familiar with than any other fan base in the league, as former Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson won the NFL's MVP award in 2012 when he literally carried the Vikings into the playoffs by rushing for over 2,000 yards.

Christian Ponder was Minnesota's starting quarterback during the 2012 season, and absolutely no one was pointing to him as the reason why the team was able to sneak into the playoffs. The same would likely happen for Darnold or McCarthy if the Vikings are able to make a surprising run to the postseason in 2024.

Jefferson certainly has the talent to put together an MVP-caliber performance next season. So, could he actually end up becoming the first non-quarterback to win the league's MVP award since Peterson in 2012?

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