This Justin Jefferson Fantasy Rookie article was written in two parts, a pre-draft profile written by Matt Hicks and a post-NFL Draft article written by Michael Hauff.
Justin Jefferson Fantasy 2020
Night one of the NFL draft certainly was not without its surprises. While Justin Jefferson might not have even been the biggest wide receiver to slip in round one, the value for where he was drafted cannot be understated. In a pick that was acquired from the Buffalo Bills, the Minnesota Vikings would use the twenty-second overall pick on Justin Jefferson. In the last twenty-years, Jefferson is the fifth wide receiver to be selected by the Vikings in the first round and he comes in with the biggest upside of any of them.
Considering the void that Jefferson is being drafted to fill, the twenty-second overall pick was poetic. That particular draft pick was what the Vikings had received from the Buffalo Bills when they traded Stefon Diggs back in March. Diggs was vital to the success of the Vikings. Over his last three seasons, he averaged 76 receptions, 1,000 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. With that in mind, Jefferson is landing in a spot where his services will be in demand from day one. Considering the fact that Jefferson had 10 games with seven or more receptions during his senior season at LSU, I do not envision an influx of targets being a problem for the rookie receiver.
In regards to redraft leagues, as mentioned above, as long as Jefferson can acclimate to the playbook quickly, there will be work there for him to excel. To be exact, there are 94 targets (2019) being left on the table from Diggs’ departure. What should also be taken into account is that his quarterback, Kirk Cousins had 444 pass attempts last season. That mark was good for twenty-fourth in the league behind names like Daniel Jones and Jacoby Brissett and was also Cousins’ fewest passing attempts since he became a full-time starter in 2015. Even if some of that can be attributed to head coach, Mike Zimmer’s commitment to run, it could also be attributed to Adam Thielen playing in just 10 games. The long-winded point that I’m driving home here is that I believe Cousins will be closer to 500+ passing attempts in 2020 and that could leave a player like Justin Jefferson with a high-upside of WR2 or just shy of that mark. In redraft leagues, I would have him ranked as my second best rookie wide receiver, behind CeeDee Lamb.
Transitioning to dynasty formats, Jefferson is a player that will likely slip to the middle or end of the first round. To be clear, that is a product of the talent around him and that is also the beauty of the value that you are getting. We have already established that Jefferson will have a year-one impact and fulfilling that role will easily separate himself from current Vikings like Olabisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe. As long as Adam Thielen is a Viking, Jefferson will see the opposing teams second-best coverage, and let’s not forget, Stefon Diggs, whom Jefferson seems to be replacing had four straight seasons of 90+ targets. Between that and the competition at the position, Jefferson has every opportunity to solidify his position on this depth chart and build a rapport with Cousins. The NFL scouts have praised his work ethic and Vikings great, Cris Carter has called Jefferson the next great Vikings wide receiver. Much like the Vikings on day one of the NFL draft, if you land Jefferson in dynasty leagues, it is an absolute steal.
Quick Link: Dynasty Rookie Rankings – Check out Justin Jefferson fantasy value in our 2020 rookie rankings.
Justin Jefferson Fantasy Pre-Draft
Jefferson exploded onto the scene in 2019, along with the entire LSU offense. He managed to still stand out despite being in an offense with a variety of talented weapons including Ja’Marr Chase, Thaddeus Moss, Terrace Marshall, and Clyde Edwards Helaire. Jefferson led the team in receptions, with 111 catches, and posted 1,540 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. Jefferson is currently projected as a late first-round prospect at the NFL Draft, which means his landing spot could put him on a winning team with talent for year one.
- 202 lbs.
- Age: 21
Justin Jefferson’s 111 receptions in 2019 not only led his team, but it also led the NCAA. He tied with SMU’s James Proche for the single-season receptions record for 2019. It places Jefferson 36th all-time in single-season receptions; a spot he shares with Robert Woods. He also finished 51st in receiving yards and 22nd in receiving touchdowns in 2019.
NFL Combine Recap
- 40 Yard Dash: 4.43s
- Vertical Jump: 37 1/2″
- Broad Jump: 126″
If you haven’t watched Jefferson’s tape his outstanding combine performance may have surprised you. As someone honed into the SEC, it was simply a confirmation of what I saw him do weekly; he shredded his fellow draftmates in Indianapolis in a similar way he shredded the best defenders in the nation. His athleticism jumped out with his 126″ broad jump (83rd percentile) and 37 1/2″ vertical jump (77th percentile). He also proved his underrated speed, his 4.43s 40-yard dash puts him in the 76th percentile all time.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Jefferson is a fluid and athletic wide receiver that is not getting enough credit in this stacked class of wideouts. He is a sharp route runner with good footwork and convincing body movements. He has a fairly diverse route tree; he can work well downfield on post routes or off the seam. He is also dangerous on comeback routes and slants. He was used primarily in the slot at LSU but projects into a Y-role at the next level. Jefferson is a fluid athlete that is fast in the short field and builds up steam moving downfield; he was used on jet sweeps and in the flat often. He has a great catch radius, consistent hands, and holds on well through contact. He is dangerous with the ball in his hands too; he has great field vision, looks comfortable running with the ball, and is elusive in open space.
Jefferson’s well-rounded game leaves little to be desired. He is pro-ready by most measurements but does have a few areas of his game that will need to be developed further in the NFL. He doesn’t separate consistently at the catch point, often relying on his athleticism and sticky hands to bail him out. Although this often worked against the best college defenders in the country, it could present challenges if he pulls top coverage against NFL defenses. He is a willing blocker that aggressively seeks out defenders to drive downfield but his technique lacks refinement, which leads to him releasing defenders too quickly. At times, he’s too fluid for his own good; he can trip himself up at times. It is also worth noting that Jefferson has played just 30 games of college football, and his production in 2018 was much less (875 yards, 6 touchdowns); although that may reflect the offensive scheme more than his talent.
Best Fit: NFL Scheme
Jefferson will continue to thrive in an offense where he can be the WR2. He doesn’t project well as a boundary receiver, and works best over the middle of the field and when he can be schemed into space; meaning he is best when there is another weapon pulling top coverage off him. He also flourished in Joe Brady’s offensive system, which emphasizes RPOs. If he lands with a team that fits one, or both, of those factors it could be a nice boost to his fantasy football value. Realistic landing spots for him that would increase his likelihood of fantasy football success are Philadelphia, New Orleans, Minnesota, Kansas City, and Carolina.
Every season we look back on players and ask ourselves how we let them fall so far in fantasy football rookie drafts. Justin Jefferson might be that player this year. Despite everything mentioned in this profile, he remains under the radar because of the flashier names in this year’s draft like Jalen Reagor, Clyde Edwards Helaire, and Cam Akers. Jefferson likely won’t go off the board until the late first round of rookie drafts and may fall all the way to the mid-second round. That would be a mistake; he has mid-first round value. He provides fantasy football players with the upside of yearly WR2 who uses his high target volume and sticky hands to create high-end PPR production. He also offers a safer floor than the aforementioned players that will likely be drafted above him. Jefferson is an ideal blend of risk and reward for fantasy football players who prefer to hedge their bets and draft safe.
Matt is a seasoned fantasy football analyst that writes dynasty and devy fantasy football content year-round. In addition to writing for Gridiron Experts, he writes and hosts a podcast for The Dynasty Draft Room and publishes all of his work at patreon.com/theffeducator