Justin Jefferson Deserves Offensive Rookie of the Year. Here’s Why.

The Offensive Rookie of the Year Award is one that has plenty of controversy surrounding it every single season. The 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award is shaping up to fit that bill perfectly. Justin Herbert, the quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers, and Justin Jefferson, wide out for the Minnesota Vikings, are the two men hoping to come out with the award. 

One thing is for sure, and that is that Justin will be winning the award one way or another. As of right now Herbert seems to be the favorite among many fans and coaches, but there are legitimate reasons why Jefferson is just as (if not more) deserving to take home the offensive rookie of the year. A fair warning to you: if reading too many numerical stats causes your head to hurt, you may want to grab some ibuprofen. 

Starting off with the statistics that everyone is well aware of, fellow Vikings Gazette writer Cole Smith summed them up in his article, “Can Justin Jefferson Duplicate His Rookie Season Success in 2021,” by saying, “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”. Breaking team records held by arguably the most gifted wide out ever is no laughing matter, and Jefferson’s league record is just as, if not, more impressive. 

Now let’s move onto the stats that really put Jefferson on a completely different level compared to almost any other rookie receiver ever. 

Jefferson was given an overall grade of 90.4 by PFF, which was the highest grade given to any rookie at any position this season,. It was also the 2nd highest grade given to any rookie wideout ever (Odell Beckham Jr. had a grade of 91.2 in 2014). That grade also put him as the 2nd highest graded wideout overall, only trailing arguably the #1 receiver in the league, Davante Adams. 

Since many people swear against using PFF to evaluate players, we need to do more than present a single grade. 

To that, I say that Jefferson had the 4th most receiving yards during the 2020 regular season with 1400. He also did this while having the fewest number of targets of any receiver in the top 10 for receiving yards . This gave Jefferson the 9th highest yards per reception stat in the league (15.9 yards/reception). Respectfully though, none of the players above him come close to being as good of an overall wideout

Jefferson also ranked 2nd in yards per route run (2.66), only trailing Davante Adams. His drop percentage would seemingly hold him back , as he ranked 15th. Luckily for him, the ranking still put him ahead of players like Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill, D.K. Metcalf, Mike Evans, AJ Brown, and even his own teammate Adam Thielen. 

Jefferson also proved to be one of the biggest deep threats in the league, posting the highest catch percentage on targets that were 20+ yards downfield. He also had a zero percent drop rate on 20+ yard targets, which multiple players were able to do. Jefferson did so with the highest number of deep targets.

Jefferson was also a nightmare in single coverage situations. Many scouts and coaches said that succeeding in single coverage was one of Jefferson’s weaknesses coming out of LSU. Clearly, he didn’t care for those criticisms, posting the 2nd highest receiving grade against single coverage in the league. He also had the highest yards per target against single coverage. Needless to say, his main weakness quickly became one of his greatest strengths. 

Even with all of the stats in the world, there will still be fans out there that say that stats don’t tell the entire story of the player. While they are right when making this point most of the time, it then means you need to break out and evaluate game film.

With all this being said, I’m not saying that Herbert isn’t worthy of winning OROY. The kid put up just as historical of a season as Jefferson did. I just find it much easier to make an argument that Jefferson was a top 5 player at his respective position. I don’t think the same can be said about Herbert, at least not yet. If the NFL wanted to do this right (which would be a rare sight), then they would give out co-offensive rookie of the year awards to each player.  

As Vikings fans, we have to accept that Herbert will more than likely be given the award. Simply due to the fact that the NFL in 2020 is a quarterback-driven league. It’s the same reason that guys like Derrick Henry, Davante Adams, and Travis Kelce don’t really have any shot at being in the MVP conversation. Regardless of what happens with the OROY award, we can all agree that both Justin Herbert and Justin Jefferson will almost certainly be nightmares for opposing defenses for years to come.