Best/Worst Case: Justin Jefferson and Jeff Gladney
The regular season is fast approaching, so fans will know sooner rather than later whether first round picks Justin Jefferson and Jeff Gladney are ready to contribute immediately.
The word out of training camp has been slightly above lukewarm for both Jefferson and Gladney. Jefferson is working with the 2s while getting some opportunity with the 1s. Gladney has spent some time recovering from his injury while receiving some opportunity at both slot and along the outside.
In this series, we’ll take a look at each of the Vikings’ draft picks to offer what is (hopefully) a realistic best/worst case scenario for each in 2020.
Best Case: Jefferson leapfrogs the players ahead of him on the depth chart, thereby establishing himself as Minnesota’s #2 receiver, meaning the Vikings again have a formidable receiver tandem. Jefferson mirrors the handful of 2019 rookie receivers – Terry McLaurin, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf – who became immediate contributors. Even though he takes most of his snaps in the slot, Jefferson also shows that he can line up along the outside, allowing Gary Kubiak more flexibility in his play calls and personnel packages.
Worst Case: The good news coming out of training camp is merely Purple Hype. Jefferson becomes yet another 1st round Vikings receiver who never establishes himself in the NFL. His talent overlap with Adam Thielen makes his skill set redundant. Like a batter who can’t hit a curve ball, teams simply press Jefferson every time he’s in the batter’s box, a strategy that nullifies his ability to gain any separation.
Best Case: Gladney’s competitiveness makes him a natural fit in Zimmer’s defense. He proves capable of overcoming the condensed offseason to master the scheme and techniques. Asking him to play along the outside and in the slot may be too much for a rookie, but he is capable of being an above average starter in one of these roles. Gladney becomes a starter in Zimmer’s nickel package, thus answering the preseason concerns about Minnesota’s corner depth.
Worst Case: Gladney’s knee injury is more serious than the Vikings originally believed. He struggles to pickup the defense. Cameron Dantzler and Kris Boyd quickly surpass him on the depth chart. Gladney establishes a nice role on special teams. Nevertheless, he has an underwhelming rookie season who doesn’t appear to merit a first-round pick.
It’s difficult to know how each is progressing without preseason games. As you’ll see along the right side of the front page, the Vikings begin their regular season in little more than two weeks. As much as Vikings fans may hate to admit it, the Packers have enough talent on each side of the ball to truly show where Jefferson and Gladney are in their development. Fans and coaches alike should be thrilled if Justin Jefferson and Jeff Gladney are able to play meaningful snaps and perform at an average to above-average level.