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Vikings’ Justin Jefferson excited for Year 2 with Kirk Cousins, names his No. 1 WR in the 2021 NFL Draft

Justin Jefferson was happy with his rookie season in 2020. He was happy to be mentioned among the likes of Randy Moss and Anquan Boldin. He was happy to be the first wide receiver to earn All-Pro honors as a rookie since Moss in 1998.

But Jefferson is ready to put his rookie season behind him. He’s ready for more. That could be scary for defensive backs — and great for Fantasy managers — in 2021.

“I set the bar pretty high for myself,” Jefferson said in an interview with CBS Sports HQ prior to Super Bowl LIV. “I definitely have to top my first season. I can’t slack, and I can’t have any less numbers than I did my first year. Definitely going into the lab and working on some things that I saw on film that I need to work with, and I’m going to be a whole new polished player next year.”

Jefferson just had one of the best seasons ever for a rookie wide receiver with 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns on 125 targets. He was the No. 6 PPR receiver in 2020. 

His 1,400 receiving yards set the NFL record for most receiving yards by a rookie wideout in the Super Bowl era. Jefferson broke Boldin’s post-merger record of 1,377 yards set in 2003, but Jefferson fell 73 yards short of Bill Groman’s all-time record for receiving yards in a rookie season since Groman had 1,473 yards for the AFL’s Houston Oilers in 1960.

In the Super Bowl era, Moss is No. 3 on the list behind Jefferson and Boldin with 1,313 yards in 1998, and that’s lofty company for Jefferson. He realized it was an amazing season for the Vikings in his rookie campaign.

“It couldn’t really be any better than what I could imagine,” Jefferson said. “Looking at the beginning of the season, I set goals for myself, but I definitely surpassed those by a big margin. I definitely didn’t think I was going to be this big of a player in my rookie season. Hopefully, there’s more to come.”

Fantasy managers should now plan to draft Jefferson as a No. 1 receiver in all leagues. His expected Average Draft Position will likely be Round 3 in most formats.

We held a PPR mock draft in January following the end of the regular season, and Jefferson was the No. 11 receiver off the board at No. 29 overall. The first 10 receivers drafted were Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins, DK Metcalf, Calvin Ridley, Stefon Diggs, Michael Thomas, A.J. Brown, Mike Evans and Allen Robinson. This is now the neighborhood where Jefferson lives as a Fantasy receiver heading into his second year.

As a rookie, he showed his ability to be a star. Through Week 6, Jefferson had two dominant games with 30 PPR points against Tennessee in Week 3 and 39 PPR points against Atlanta in Week 6. And then from Week 10 on, Jefferson was basically unstoppable, scoring at least 14 PPR points in seven of his final eight games of the season, including four games with at least 21 PPR points. 

It might be hard to grasp that a receiver playing with Kirk Cousins and sharing the field with Adam Thielen can be this good, but Jefferson showed that’s possible. He finished fourth in receiving yards in 2020 behind only Diggs (1,535), Travis Kelce (1,416) and Hopkins (1,407).

Speaking of Cousins, Jefferson is “100 percent” behind his starting quarterback.

“I love Kirk,” Jefferson said. “I love his attitude, and I love his energy. Kirk gets a lot of criticism. But Kirk does whatever he needs to get the offense going. He did tremendous this season. Of course, we would like those first couple of games back, but the second half of the season, he turned on a whole new game. From there on, we were right there with him, right behind his back, trying to compete for all of those wins.”

The Vikings started the season 1-5 but won six of their final 10 games, and Jefferson feels the team can compete for the playoffs in 2021. Jefferson is confident in the offense with himself, Cousins, Thielen and Dalvin Cook leading the way — I also like Irv Smith as a Fantasy sleeper — but the Minnesota defense can determine the team’s fate next season.

“That 1-5 start at the beginning of the season hurt us,” Jefferson said. “We didn’t bring that energy, that swagger. It definitely was a slow start. The second half of the season we brought that energy, that fire, and we played with more swagger. If our defense is healthy and comes ready and prepared then I feel like our offense will do the same, and we’ll win a lot more games.”

Aside from his own performance, Jefferson was proud of his rookie receiver draft class in 2020, which included standout Fantasy options in CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins, Chase Claypool and Brandon Aiyuk. There’s also still plenty of potential for guys like Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, Jalen Reagor and Michael Pittman, among others.

Jefferson was the fifth receiver drafted in the first round behind Ruggs, Jeudy, Lamb and Reagor, but so far Jefferson is the best.

“This class was phenomenal,” Jefferson said. “The guys that were drafted, to see what they’ve been doing for their own teams, it’s been amazing. It’s going to go down as one of the best receiver draft classes in a long time. To be on the top of that list, that’s a blessing. To be the fifth receiver picked but playing like the first, it’s been a true blessing.”

And now Jefferson is excited to see the next rookie draft class of receivers in 2021, which includes his former LSU teammate, Ja’Marr Chase. The two helped the Tigers win a national championship in 2019, and Jefferson said Chase should be the first receiver selected in the upcoming NFL Draft.

“I have to go with my guy Ja’Marr,” Jefferson. “He has that attitude and that swagger to his game that not a lot of people have. I’m excited to see what he does in his first year. We always have a competition going, so I’m pretty sure he’s going to try to outperform me in his first year. I’m excited for him. Hopefully, he gets to a good team that uses him right, and he shines wherever he is.”

It will be tough for Chase to top Jefferson as a rookie given his historical performance, but hopefully, Chase puts on a show just like his former LSU teammate. As for Jefferson, he’s a rising star in Fantasy and reality, and his rookie season was amazing.

We’re excited to see what he does in Year 2. Hopefully, that time in the lab can make him even better in his sophomore season.




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