Former Vikings’ GM Gets Honest About Justin Jefferson’s Skill

Justin Jefferson, Vikings
NFL Analysis Network

This offseason, the Minnesota Vikings bid adieu to four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency, as he elected to join the Atlanta Falcons on a lucrative new contract.

Minnesota now has J.J. McCarthy, a quarterback it took with the No. 10 pick in April’s draft who was the most polarizing prospect heading into the draft.

While McCarthy led the University of Michigan to a win in the College Football Playoff National Championship game last season, many are skeptical he can thrive in a pass-heavy offense.

Most teams in this type of situation would have virtually no hope of making the playoffs. But the Vikings have at least a faint or vague hope thanks to star wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

He’s arguably the best in the business, and he was named the Offensive Player of the Year for the 2022 season with 1,809 yards and eight touchdowns.

At age 24, most of his best football is likely still ahead of him.

There is usually one moment at which a team has an epiphany that a certain player is going to be special or even legendary. Former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman revealed that moment while talking about what Jefferson ultimately wants to accomplish in his career.

“I remember the first day he came in as a rookie. He was just different.  He went up and made a one hand grab in the redzone that just took your breath away,” Spielman said in a Sirius XM NFL Radio interview.

“… But what makes Justin Jefferson different, in my opinion, or elite is not only because of his talent and his athleticism and what he does on the football field, but how humble he is, how hard he works at it. I know he wants to win a Super Bowl, but he wants to be known as the best receiver, one of the best receivers to ever play in the NFL.”

True greatness isn’t really dependent on natural ability or even skill, but one’s internal motivation, desire, work ethic and ambition. Many are content with merely being stars, but when someone as gifted as Jefferson has goals in a historical context, the sky could truly be the limit for him.

Despite a hamstring injury that limited him to 10 games last year, he still got over the 1,00-yard mark and scored five touchdowns while finishing second in the league with 107.4 receiving yards per game.

Jefferson has some legitimate help around him in the form of fellow wideout Jordan Addison, who had a stellar rookie campaign last year, and tight end T.J. Hockenson, a two-time Pro Bowler.

The Vikings also brought in Aaron Jones, a capable veteran running back, to strengthen their backfield.

If McCarthy defies his doubters and plays well, it shouldn’t be a stretch to imagine them making the playoffs this coming season.

In fact, if he does play well relatively early in the season, Justin Jefferson could be poised to put forth a 2024 campaign to remember.

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