Rarely is the career of an NFL player defined by a season or two, but in the case of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, the historic numbers he’s putting up in his first two years in the league are impossible to ignore. Simply put, he’s the most productive pass-catcher the league has ever experienced over his first 31 games.
Jefferson passed Odell Beckham Jr. for the most receiving yards in a player’s first two seasons in the Vikings’ Week 16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, and he still has another two games to add to his record. Jefferson has the added benefit of a 17th game this year, making his new two-year total a nearly impossible number to reach. Jefferson’s up to 2,851 yards and counting, and while his sophomore season hasn’t received as much fanfare as his rookie year, he’s already set new career-highs in every category: catches (97), receiving yards (1,451), and touchdowns (9). Simply remarkable.
"Blessed, honor to God, just being in this situation, breaking his record with him [Beckham] in the building," Jefferson said after the game. "It was no other perfect situation for me. But a dub would definitely be better with that record, but move on."
Jefferson’s record-setting production while playing with other superstars on the Vikings offense makes his numbers even more incredible. Running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Adam Thielen deserve their touches, and usually, that means fewer opportunities to go around. And while Kirk Cousins is a capable quarterback, imagine what Jefferson’s stats would be like if he played with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, or Patrick Mahomes? Jefferson’s numbers, with all factors considered, make a strong argument that he’s the best at what he does.
Jefferson ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards, trailing only Cooper Kupp (1,751), who’s on a record-setting pace of his own. His 15 yards per catch is significantly better than players like Kupp, Davante Adams, and Tyreek Hill. He’s a few big games away from finishing second behind Kupp for touchdown catches, too. His 90.1 grade from Pro Football Focus is third-best among all wide receivers this year.
With two games remaining in the 2021 season, Jefferson (assuming he stays healthy) will eclipse 100 catches, 1,600 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Truly elite. He’s stacked back-to-back Hall-of-Fame worthy seasons together, and while it’s way too soon to say he’ll finish his career with a bust in Canton, he’s certainly trending in that direction.
The most productive wide receiver in NFL history, Jerry Rice, ended his second season with 2,497 total receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. Jefferson’s at 2,851 yards and 16 touchdowns with eight quarters to go in Year 2. Durability will be the ultimate determining factor for just how high Jefferson climbs in the record books, but he’s off to an extraordinary start.