Justin Jefferson was the best rookie receiver in the NFL this season. The Vikings receiver totaled 1,400 receiving yards, an all-time rookie record and 465 more than the next closest rookie’s total.
That isn’t what Jefferson was seeking, though.
“I wanted to be the best receiver I can be,” Jefferson told Steve Wyche and Jim Trotter on their Huddle & Flow podcast. “I didn’t want to really compare myself to the other rookie receivers. I wanted to be the best receiver in the league.”
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert and Jefferson are the top candidates for offensive rookie of the year, with the NFL announcing the winner the night before the Super Bowl. Odell Beckham was the last receiver to win the award, taking it home in 2014, and receiver Percy Harvin was the last Vikings player to win it in 2009.
Yet, Jefferson waited a long time to hear his name called on draft day. He was the fifth receiver off the board, following Henry Ruggs III (No. 12), Jerry Jeudy (15), CeeDee Lamb (17) and Jalen Reagor (21). Jefferson was the only rookie receiver to break 1,000 receiving yards, and his 88 receptions topped the rookies, too.
“I kept a chip on my shoulder, if you want to say that,” said Jefferson, who played at LSU. “I just felt like I was one of the top receivers, especially off of the performance I did with the national championship, having over 1,500 yards, having 18 touchdowns. So being the fifth receiver picked up, I felt that was disrespectful on their part.
“I just wanted to prove everybody wrong. All of the doubts about me playing outside, me not being a fast receiver, me not being able to go deep. So this past season, I worked on all of those things. I just tried to clean up my game a little bit more and be that versatile receiver.”