Despite having only been in the NFL for two years, Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has already established himself as a premier player in the league. In just two years, the young star has caught 196 passes for 3,106 yards and has looked unstoppable thus far. What Jefferson’s done is undoubtedly impressive, and with new head coach Kevin O’Connell, Jefferson is in a position to record even better statistics in 2022.
Jefferson’s first two years came in a Gary Kubiak, run-first offense. While Jefferson found ways to excel in this system, it always felt like he wasn’t being utilized properly.
Jefferson’s blazing speed makes him an amazing deep threat, yet Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins’ average yards per pass attempt was only 7.5 yards. This was a product of the play calling rather than the quarterback play. When looking at what O’Connell brings to the table, the prospect of an all-out aerial attack on offense seems promising.
At the conclusion of the 2021, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford averaged 8.1 yards per pass attempt with O’Connell serving as his offensive coordinator. Looking at the success of Rams star wideout Cooper Kupp, it’s reasonable to assume Jefferson will step into a similar role in O’Connell’s system.
In 2021, Kupp was targeted 191 times, almost 30 targets more than Jefferson. Considering Jefferson’s yards per catch exceeded Kupp’s, it’s not hard to imagine that if Jefferson receives that many targets, he could potentially break records like Kupp did in 2021. If Jefferson receives around 179 targets (the average of his 2021 targets and Kupp’s) while maintaining his 15 yards per catch, he would be set for a 2,000 yard campaign in 2022.
This projection doesn’t even take into consideration the increased yard per attempt that will be generated by Cousins in the new system. While many Vikings fans are excited for the new O’Connell era in Minnesota, Justin Jefferson reserves the right to the biggest smile for anyone suiting up in purple and gold.