Can Justin Jefferson Duplicate His Rookie Season Success in 2021?
Following an impressive rookie season, the bar is set high for Justin Jefferson entering the 2021 season. The first-year star from LSU hauled in 88 receptions for seven touchdowns. His 1,400 yards broke the 22-year franchise record set by Randy Moss in 1998 and the 17-year league record set by Anquan Boldin. On Friday, Jefferson capped the season with second-team AP All-Pro honors.
As the clear WR1 in Minnesota, he is going to be an even larger focal point of the offense. In turn, he will also be a larger focal point of the opposing defense’s game plan. While we can’t see into the future and predict exactly how Jefferson will perform in his sophomore season, we can look back and see how the other record-breaking rookies fared when they took the field for their second seasons.
Rookie season: 69 rec, 1313 yd, 17 TD
Second season: 80 rec, 1413 yd, 11 TD
Moss’ rookie season was so ridiculous that it would be easy to see a regression. Instead, his numbers were very similar across the board, and he actually caught 58.4 percent of the passes thrown his way in 1999 compared to 55.6 percent in 1998. The Vikings began using him in other creative ways in 1999 as well. He threw one pass for a touchdown, ran four times for 43 yards (picking up three first downs along the way), and even ran back a punt return for a touchdown against the Chiefs to tie the game up late in the fourth quarter. Moss was an exceptional talent who got exceptional attention and still built upon his rookie campaign.
Rookie season: 101 rec, 1377 yd, 8 TD
Second season: 56 rec, 623 yd, 1 TD
Boldin burst onto the scene in his first career NFL game, catching 10 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns en route to a record-setting season (crazy stat, Randy Moss never topped 204 yards in a game in his entire career). Boldin’s second season got off to a slow start as he suffered a knee injury in practice prior to the season opener and did not see the field until October. For not being 100 percent at the time he returned to play, his production was still pretty good. Still, this is the one nightmare scenario for the Vikings. Jefferson did not have any injury issues in his rookie season, but injuries are almost inevitable in the NFL.
Odell Beckham, Jr.
Rookie season: 91 rec, 1305 yd, 12 TD
Second season: 96 rec, 1450 yd, 13 TD
Even though Odell Beckham Jr.’s numbers were not flashing on FOX graphics in the Vikings week 17 finale, Beckham’s rookie season caught the NFL by storm. The former LSU alum made his famous one-handed touchdown grab on Sunday Night Football and instantly became a star. Injuries kept Beckham from breaking the rookie yardage record as he only played in 13 games in 2014. Because of this, his 108.8 yards per game were actually far more than Jefferson, Moss, and Boldin. He graced the cover of Madden his second season and, like Moss, either stayed the same or improved each of his statistical categories.
What to Expect from Jefferson in 2021
Viking fans should not be worried about a sophomore slump from Justin Jefferson in 2021. In addition to what the players mentioned above accomplished in their second seasons, Jefferson is entering his first NFL off-season and should, hopefully, have organized team activities, a full training camp, preseason, and more hands-on training with the coaching staff. As long as Jefferson continues to stay humble, healthy and grind each and every week, next season should be as good, if not better, than 2020.