Following the Rookies: NFC North Minnesota Vikings
Updated: Nov 17, 2020
The Minnesota Vikings made 2 picks in the 1st round of the NFL Draft after trading star wide receiver, Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills. With those 2 picks, they drafted LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson and TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney. I am only going to highlight rookie receiver Justin Jefferson and how he has been able to step right into the role that Diggs played before he was traded.
The Vikings offense has been built on the run game and play-action where they can take deep shots down the field to Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs but when Diggs was traded there was now a hole in the offense. Justin Jefferson's ability to be inserted into the offense right away helped solve the loss of Diggs as he has shown the ability to consistently get open at all levels of the field and take some of the pressure off of Adam Thielen. Jefferson has started in 6 of the 8 games he has played in catching 35 passes on 44 targets for 627 yards and 3 touchdowns which is on pace to replicate Diggs 2019 numbers. He can beat man coverage with his athletic ability by simply running by corners but has also shown an array of releases to beat press as well as an understanding of how to get exactly what he wants on every route. On deep balls, he can go up and win jump ball opportunities, and on short passes, he can make defenders miss and create yards after the catch. He truly is capable of doing just about everything you can ask of a wide receiver and has answered the questions on if he was going to be able to win when lined up as an outside receiver. Considering he mainly played out of the slot in college there were some concerns about if he would be able to consistently win outside but those questions have already been answered in 8 games. Based simply on film, Jefferson has been the best rookie wideout in this class which is full of future stars of the game. In the end, the Vikings were able to trade away Diggs and his salary and immediately replace him with a player who won't take up as much cap space. This is one of the few instances where a team is immediately able to replace pro bowl talent with a rookie.