We discussed this topic on the Bleeding Purple Podcast episode (video above) that released this morning — [conversation begins at 11-minute mark] — Subscribe to Minnesota Sports Fan on Youtube
Stefon Diggs is an elite route runner and a really good wide receiver. He’s one of Rick Spielman’s best draft picks. With the benefit of hindsight, nabbing Stef in the 5th round of that 2015 draft was an absolute steal and Rick should probably still be locked up for something so egregious.
However…. Diggs’ full-season numbers often struggled to reflect both his talent and star persona, each of which popped off the TV screen almost every Sunday. It took until his fourth season with the Vikings (and the arrival of Kirk Cousins) to finally record over 1000 yards receiving. 2018 was also the same (and only) season where Diggs hauled in 100+ catches and he’s yet to record a season with double-digit touchdowns.
There aren’t many guys who put together one 1000/100/10 season as a wide receiver. The Vikings have only had two receivers do it (Randy Moss (2) and Cris Carter) I will mention that Diggs and Thielen both came just one TD away from the iconic feat in 2018… so close. Admittedly, it would be one hell of a rookie season if Jefferson were to top Diggs’ 2018 but Stefon did take a step back again last season, statistically.
While you don’t need a season with 1000/100/10, to be considered a top NFL wide receiver, you really can’t be considered great without at least one. That’s part of why Diggs left. With Adam here, it was going to be tough to achieve such accomplishments. Given all of that, it’d be impossible for a rookie to put up bigger numbers than what Diggs did while here… right?
Not so fast.
Justin Jefferson might not be Stefon Diggs… but that might actually help him… more on that later. Let’s talk about Jefferson’s college production first. Remember, there are less games in college football even when you win the National Championship (likely netting 3 extra games). Jefferson had no problem achieving the 1000/100/10 line in his final season at LSU, last year. He finished his (2019) Junior season with a 1540/111/18 in 15 games.
[WARNING: I’m about to make a ridiculous comparison but it’s only to put Jefferson’s completely ridiculous 2019 numbers into proper context…]
2003 was Randy Moss’ best season with the Vikings (stats-wise). In that historic 16 games, he achieved a receiving line of 1632/111/17. Justin isn’t Randy and it’s not fair to compare the two but this is just about the numbers… Moss is the greatest receiver of all time and we are talking about the best overall season of his career…. Jefferson matched those numbers in one less game. I know it’s a different level of competition but those numbers are just jaw-dropping.
Jefferson is a high-output receiver. When utilized properly and playing well, he’s going to put up a lot of catches, especially playing slot with a QB who likes to throw there. Another key factor to Justin’s season, as I teased earlier, could be the attention he receives (or doesn’t receive) from opposing defenses. Stefon Diggs wasn’t fooling anyone anymore. Defensive coordinators were always accounting for #14, when planning for the Vikings.
In 2020-21, defensive focus will first be on Dalvin Cook, then Adam Thielen and maybe even Kyle Rudolph, before finally reaching Justin Jefferson. A high-output WR with a lot of single-coverage + a pre-snap read QB like Kirk Cousins…. could lead to a big first season for our rookie wide receiver.
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So, would it be crazy if Justin Jefferson puts up bigger numbers in his rookie NFL season, than what Diggs did throughout his career in purple? No.
It’s certainly a plausible scenario. Unless Jefferson looks awful during camp, he should slot in at WR2, giving him plenty of opportunity to be a game-changer, just like the Vikings drafted him to be.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan