• Nick Muzzillo

The Stefon Diggs Replacement: Justin Jefferson



Is there a better situation than the one Justin Jefferson walked into in Minnesota? The LSU star, taken #22 overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2020 NFL Draft, may find himself as a star in the making as early as this year. After the trade of Stefon Diggs sent him to Buffalo, it was obvious the Vikings would address the position during the draft. When they did so was the only question. When the Vikings landed on the clock at pick 22, Jefferson's name was called, signifying the heir apparent to Diggs. It's clear the Vikings have big plans for Jefferson, as he essentially steps into the WR2 role opposite Adam Thielen. And it has the chance to be an instant impact.


After watching his college film, I will break down what Jefferson does well and how dynamic of a receiver he is out of the slot. I will also explain why he has the chance to provide immediate return on investment should you decide to take him in your rookie draft this summer.


Film

The first thing you'll notice in each game is that Jefferson ran primarily out of the slot - something new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak already mentioned he will continue to do in Minnesota. Jefferson(#2) is lined up in the slot and runs a crossing route over the middle. From this angle, you can see him sit down in the zone to get himself open in space. He's not a big target, but his ability to get open in space and play as one will transition nicely to the pro game. Kirk Cousins could find himself targeting Jefferson often if he can get open like this.


Jefferson will also have the chance to establish himself as a redzone target. He does a good job of creating separation at the top of his routes to get open. Another thing to point out is his instincts - his wherewithal to know where he's at on the field and will have to take a hit. It's something you can't teach.


There were questions about Jefferson's speed prior to the combine. They were all silenced when he ran a 4.43 that solidified a first round draft grade. Here you see an example of that speed, as he turns the corner and explodes by the trailing defender to gain extra yardage.


Different route, same result. Jefferson toasts the defender on a go route. Easy touchdown. Another thing to point out is his smooth hands, hands that can quickly integrate him as a guy Cousins can trust. Bottom line, today's NFL is all about speed, speed, and more speed. And Jefferson will provide the element for the Vikings.



Lastly, Jefferson plays with an aggressive style and physicality that coaches will love. As mentioned, he's not a huge body at 203 lbs, but at 6'1", he's got good size and strength to carry defenders for extra yardage. One other thing - watch his desire to score here. You cannot teach that.


Rookie Draft and Beyond

As recently as May 2020 ADP (according to Dynasty League Football), Jefferson is the 9th player off the board in 1QB leagues (rookie WR4) and #11 in Superflex leagues (rookie WR3). There are 94 vacated targets within the Vikings offense with the loss of Diggs. There is a good argument that Jefferson walks into the best situation to find immediate fantasy success as a rookie. Why? Talent and opportunity. His only competition for targets as the WR2 are Tajae Sharpe and Olabisi Johnson - two guys you can make a case have nowhere near the same amount of playmaking ability and talent as Jefferson. However, he will have to compete with Kyle Rudolph, and Irv Smith - who's expected to make a second year leap in 2020. Still, if Jefferson can establish his talent early, he will find a role and could return weekly flex option production on your dynasty rosters this year.


Beyond this year, the future is bright. Thielen and Rudolph both be gone in 2021 and Sharpe is only signed to a 1 year deal. That would leave Jefferson and Smith as the only two legitimate options, clearing a path for the former Tiger to take on WR1 duties. Should that happen, it is no doubt Jefferson could be in store for a sizable leap in year two, skyrocketing his value and can make him one of the most attractive dynasty assets moving forward.


So, I think Jefferson has the chance to well outplay his ADP now and in the years to come. Be patient in 2020, but get excited in 2021 and thereafter. I have him ranked as the rookie WR4 and the 9th overall player on rookie draft boards. The bottom line is, do not pass on him. Feel comfortable investing if he's there, as he presents terrific value long term and his outlook is bright as a dynasty building block.

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I will be providing analysis on both incoming rookies and other young players. I would love to hear your comments and who else you'd like to see me break down.


You can reach me on Twitter @bigmuzz26 to tweet me any responses, questions, or advice on how to improve. Thank you so much for reading!

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