The New England Patriots are set to take on the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night for a Thanksgiving showdown. With the game quickly approaching, here is another installment of our weekly series where we like to imagine certain players from the opposing team on the Patriots.
For this week’s Gimme Him, Justin Jefferson would be my choice to boost New England’s wide receiver position group.
Jefferson has already made a name for himself at the NFL level, despite just being a three-year pro. He has set an NFL record for number of 100-plus receiving yard games in a player’s first three seasons, passing another former Viking and all-time great Randy Moss (but we’ll get back to him later).
After being drafted by the Vikings 22nd overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Jefferson immediately made an impact as a rookie. Operating in a wide receiving corps that already featured veteran Adam Thielen playing in the slot, Jefferson established himself as a true threat on the outside, racking up 1,400 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in his stellar rookie campaign.
He continued this high level of play into his second season, posting 1,616 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, while becoming the primary target for Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Jefferson has not stopped his high level of play this season, either, as he already has over 1,000 receiving yards through Week 11.
What may be the most impressive thing about Jefferson is not these statistics, but just how versatile he is. While he was initially used as more of a downfield threat in his rookie year, he has transformed into an every-down, every-play receiver.
Jefferson’s average depth of target is 9.9 yards in 2022, down from 11.4 and 12.4 in his first two seasons. Moreover, Jefferson has also shown he can be a workhorse wide receiver in a high-powered offense.
According to Next Gen Stats, Jefferson has commanded 42.06 percent of his team’s air yards in 2022, due in large part to his astounding total of 72 receptions so far this season. In fact, he ranks below Thielen in average cushion and average separation, but higher than him in yards after the catch per reception, indicating his ability to turn more contested catches into bigger plays.
While the Patriots do have a full wide receiver room, no players, besides maybe Jakobi Meyers, have truly stood out from the rest this season. Jefferson would effectively give the team a young Randy Moss to use in their offense, a fitting comparison to another dynamic every-play receiver who came up with the Vikings before reviving his career in New England.
In an offense that is desperately searching for a player not named Rhamondre Stevenson to give them life, Jefferson would instantly provide a top-tier playmaking ability and an every-down skillset that the Patriots would love to use.