Does Justin Jefferson Have a Case For MVP This Year?

Coming into the 2022 NFL season, everyone was wondering if Justin Jefferson would continue where he left off in the 2021 season. In training camp, Jefferson was saying that this was the year he would prove that he was the best Wide Receiver in the NFL, and a lot of critics just kind of laughed that off with the presence of Tyreek Hill and Devante Adams still being highly dominant players in the league.

Now coming out of Week 12, Jefferson has easily put himself into the Top 2 conversation with Tyreek Hill with Devante Adams underperforming (for his standards) in his first season with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Jefferson currently trails Hill in receiving yards by only 1 yard. Jefferson has 1232, and Hill has 1233. Jefferson is on pace for just over 1900 yards this season, the current receiving yards record being 1964, being held by Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson. Jefferson doesn’t have the most touchdowns, only having posted 5 so far this season, but most of those coming from deep balls from Kirk Cousins, as the Vikings are mostly a run-first offense while in the red zone. Jefferson is tied for first in 20+ yard receptions (21) and 40+ yard receptions (5).

All of this is very impressive considering that Jefferson is only in his 3rd year in the league, and the fact that he’s putting up these numbers against some of the best cornerbacks in the league speaks for itself. Jefferson has gone for 100+ yards on corners such as Jonathan Jones, Dane Jackson, Xavien Howard, Marshon Lattimore, and Jaire Alexander.

Although MVPs are typically QBs, numerous non-QB names have been thrown out for MVP. These names include Chiefs Tight End Travis Kelce, Dolphins Wide Receiver Tyreek Hill, Cowboys OLB Micah Parsons, and Vikings Wide Receiver Justin Jefferson. QBs up for consideration include Jalen Hurts, Geno Smith, and Josh Allen as the front runners.

It has been debated that Jefferson has a stronger case for MVP than Travis Kelce and Micah Parsons, as he’s overperformed Kelce in every category besides touchdowns, and only two defensive players have won the league MVP in its history, having to go all the way back to 1986 when Lawrence Taylor won MVP. Analysts seem divided between Jefferson and Tyreek Hill, as both of their numbers are so similar, with them being in the Top 3 for almost every category.

Going up against QBs for MVP is almost always a guaranteed loss, especially when one of them is 10-1 going into Week 13. However, it is not impossible, especially when you play for the Vikings, as the last non-QB MVP was former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in 2012.

As for possibly beating out the three QBs listed earlier, Josh Allen’s MVP stock has started to go down, as the Buffalo Bills have hit a bit of a skid in recent weeks, especially just barely beating the Detroit Lions, which was framed as an easy win. Most of Geno Smith’s MVP stock came from the fact that everyone expected the Seahawks to suck this year, and Geno Smith has surprised everyone, but he’s begun to be placed in everyone’s Comeback Player of the Year award. Jalen Hurts is probably the biggest threat to Jefferson’s MVP campaign as he’s led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 10-1 start while being overly impressive in both the pass and run game. Hurts’ MVP campaign looks a lot like Lamar Jackson’s in 2019, as he’s been dominant while throwing and running the football. Despite not being in the Top 10 for passing yards, he’s managed to only throw 3 interceptions, and avoid turnovers overall.

Jefferson has been used in the Viking’s pass game twice this year, completing both of his passes for 34 yards. He’s also rushed twice for 13 yards. Impressive for a wide receiver, but it doesn’t really add to his MVP chances. Maybe if the Vikings start utilizing Jefferson in these areas more, they would add more to his campaign. As we saw last year when he was in LA, Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell used wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the pass and rush game a lot.

Let’s not forget that the Vikings overall record also can play a huge role in Jefferson’s chances. Going into Week 13, the Vikings currently hold a 9-2 record, and a lot of that can be in thanks to Justin Jefferson. Every game he shows up and balls out, even if he doesn’t become Kirk Cousins’ favorite target that game, he’s still a threat. As we’ve seen throughout the year, whenever Jefferson runs a deep route or in route, he typically gets double coverage, therefore leaving one of his fellow receivers open such as Adam Thielen, TJ Hockenson, or KJ Osborn.

Jefferson has also been impressive while blocking for Vikings running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. There have been numerous plays highlighted by commentators during games, or analysts after the week that have pointed out how well Jefferson has done at blocking for his backs. A great example of this would be Dalvin Cook’s 81-yard rushing touchdown versus the Bills.

You see in this play, Jefferson can block the incoming safety, therefore leaving Cook to have a 1 on 1 with the cornerback. Jefferson then pushes the safety away, which causes the Bills linebacker #53 to run into the safety and have to go around him to attempt to chase Cook, who is by then long gone.

Justin Jefferson has by far had his best season in the NFL, and if he continues this, he could break the NFL receiving yards record. As of writing this article, Justin Jefferson has accumulated the most Pro Bowl votes so far this year. There’s still a bit to go in the season, but if all goes well, we might be hearing Jefferson’s name being called at the NFL Honors as the first non-QB MVP in 10 years.
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