Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson is having a dominant rookie campaign.
He is making a strong case for Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY), an award usually dominated by quarterbacks and running backs.
Since 2000, only three receivers have earned the award, but Jefferson appears to be a front runner.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas threw in his support for the young receiver, taking to Twitter to make his case.
@JJettas2 is the Rookie of The Year I have seen enough lol 💪🏾 that’s hard bro keep going !
— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) December 7, 2020
Pro Football Focus, an analytics giant that didn’t have Jefferson on their top 10 OROY candidates list, has even shifted their opinion on the WR.
Before the season, the group was critical of Jefferson.
“We here at PFF aren’t nearly as high on Justin Jefferson as other scouts and media outlets for three primary reasons: (1) most of his production was schemed through underneath routes or from finding a hole in the zone (815 such yards led the FBS by nearly 100),” PFF wrote. “(2) he faced press coverage on just 17% of his routes in 2019 and (3) when he did go up against defensive backs in single coverage, he performed poorly, producing just the 60th best receiving grade in 2018 and failing to crack the top 100 on such plays in 2019.”
Justin Jefferson or Justin Herbert
Who should be OROY? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/h0RoWplCtn
— PFF (@PFF) December 7, 2020
They are now looking at him as the runaway winner.
Since his breakout Week 3 performance against the Titans, Jefferson has had five 100-plus receiving yard games with seven TDs.
With 1,039 total receiving yards, he ranks fourth in the NFL.
This season, he has solidified himself as one of the top receiving threats.
Now, after Chargers QB Justin Herbert was locked up against the Patriots last Sunday, Jefferson has taken the clear lead as Rookie of the Year.
Jefferson Is Having A Record Year
Some analysts are projecting that Jefferson’s season is the best by a rookie WR since 1985.
Based on defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR), a metric that shows what a player can create over an average replacement level player, Jefferson dominates.
Justin Jefferson continues to make his case for offensive ROTY!!!
— #RingerNFL (@ringernfl) December 6, 2020
Before their Week 13 game against the Jaguars, Jefferson had a 316 DYAR through 11 games.
Through 16 games, he is on pace for a 459 DYAR, with 1,335 yards and nine TDs.
This would easily be the best rookie WR season since 1985.
Thomas would be second with 431 DYAR, and Randy Moss would be third with a 430 DYAR in 1998.
Heart of The Vikings Offense
So far this season, Jefferson has been the core of the Vikings’ offense.
The Vikings, who jumped into the final Wild Card spot after their victory this week, rely on Jefferson for a spark in their receiving game.
For most of the season, he has come through.
Each week, his route running prowess leaves opposing secondaries in the dust.
Justin Jefferson is ELITE 🤮
— Overtime (@overtime) November 29, 2020
Pair that with his 4.43 level speed and Jefferson is a tough cover for defenses.
It is no surprise, then, that he continues to be a reliable option for QB Kirk Cousins.
Between him and fellow receiver Adam Thielen, the Vikings have one of the best-receiving duos in the NFL.
Any way you look at it, it’s clear that Jefferson is having a breakout rookie season.
Some of the league’s best receivers has noticed the rookie’s performance, including Thomas.
Now, as the Vikings continue battling for a playoff spot, it will be interesting to see how Jefferson steps up the rest of the way.