StaTuesday: Analyzing Justin Jefferson’s rookie season with the Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings Week 17 win over the Detroit Lions was essentially a meaningless game and a meaningless result.

Unless your name is Justin Jefferson.

Both teams were already eliminated from the playoffs, so it was time to pile up statistics. For Vikings stars Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen, the yardage gained against the Lions made their final-season numbers look a little bit prettier.

For Jefferson, it was time to break records.

The rookie from LSU hauled in nine catches for 133 yards against Detroit. That put his season totals at 88 receptions for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns.

We all remember how special Randy Moss was in 1998 when he reeled in 69 balls for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns. Yeah… Jefferson broke his yardage mark with this 38-yard catch in the third quarter against the Lions.

When it was all said and done, Jefferson finished with more than enough yards to break Anquan Boldin’s previous rookie record of 1,377 yards set with the Arizona Cardinals in 2003.

Granted, these are all records from the Super Bowl era. The all-time rookie receiving yards record of 1,473 yards was set by Bill Groman of the AFL’s Houston Oilers in 1960.

Jefferson caught 88 passes, which tied him with Reggie Bush for the seventh-best rookie reception mark. Only Boldin in 2003 (101), Michael Thomas in 2016 (92), Saquon Barkley in 2018 (91), Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014 (91), Eddie Royal in 2008 (91) and Terry Glenn in 1996 (90) caught more passes in their first year.

He also averaged 15.91 yards per catch. That’s the sixth-best mark for rookies with at least 60 receptions in NFL history, behind Groman, Moss, Ernest Givins (1986), Bill Brooks (1986) and A.J. Green (2011).

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Jefferson’s 2020 season is almost unparalleled in Vikings history. He is one of two Minnesota wideouts to have at least 1,400 receiving yards, joining – you guessed it – Moss, who had 1,413 yards in 1999, 1,437 yards in 2000, and 1,632 yards in 2003.

Think about it. Only Moss and Jefferson have reached that mark. Not Cris Carter, not Ahmad Rashad, not Anthony Carter, not Thielen, not Stefon Diggs, not Jake Reed, and not Sidney Rice in 2009. Nope, just Jefferson and Moss.

No. 18 has a long way to go to catch up with Moss, but at age 21 he has a lot of runway to put his name in the record books.

And Jefferson did this despite putting up meager statistics in his first two games. Minnesota did not feature him as much in the offense early on and he started his NFL career with just five catches for 70 yards.

He more than made up for it in the next 14 games and it would not surprise anyone if he breaks more records in the future.

It’s a good bet to assume Minnesota fans will see more Griddy dances in the end zone.