by Mike Marek
The Vikings had a problem on their hands at the end of last year. A diva star wide receiver was causing issues in the locker room and on Twitter. Stefon Diggs was no longer happy with the quarterback and decision-making of the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had a decision to make, and they chose Kirk Cousins and decided to get maximum value from the market for Diggs.
Diggs will always be remembered in Minnesota for having one the signature moments of the franchise, with his catch against the New Orleans Saints which was instantly coined the Minneapolis miracle. That catch alone, was enough keep his name on the good side of Vikings fans’ memories for the rest of time. So, when the Vikings ended up trading Diggs to the Buffalo Bills last offseason for a handful of picks, it was hard not to think back to another star wide receiver leaving town in Randy Moss. That time it did not work out so well for Minnesota, with the return only netting the Vikings an also-ran linebacker in Napolean Harris, and the seventh overall pick, which ended up being the mediocre at best Troy Williamson. Sure, Williamson had speed, but had bad hands and no depth perception. He turned out to be one of the biggest draft busts of all time. Thinking back to that fateful trade, Vikings fans stomachs were in knots heading up to the 22nd pick of the NFL draft.
The pick ended up being wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Jefferson seemed destined to play for the Vikings coming out of the draft, heck, he already was used to wearing purple and gold from his LSU days. He was taken as a Stefon Diggs replacement, little did we know when the pick was made was how well he would fill those shoes.
Justin started the season without too many targets or accolades. At first sight, it appeared that we may have another Troy Williamson on our hands. Coming into the season, he was behind Bisi Johnson on the depth chart, which initially did not bode well for his future in football. By the third game, he had buried Vikings fans fears and “griddied” his way into our hearts with an amazing an amazing 175-yard performance against the Titans.
After his third game in purple, Justin never looked back. He went on to record an NFL rookie record of 1,400 yards receiving, passing the great Randy Moss in the process. He became a first-down machine for the Vikings and showed the explosiveness of a number one receiver when we needed it. Named to his first Pro Bowl already, the question is, will he ascend to the heights of other Vikings rookies by bringing home some additional hardware.
Six times in Vikings history has a rookie played well enough on offense to be named rookie of the year. Those names include Moss, Harvin, Peterson, Foreman, White and the often-overlooked Paul Flatley. All in, the Vikings have won this award more times than any other franchise in the NFL. To join the ranks, Justin has some tough competition for the award this year with Justin Herbert. Herbert, the quarterback of the Chargers is the odds-on favorite to win after an impressive rookie campaign at the glamor position. Even if Jefferson does not win, he should be a joy to watch for Vikings fans for years to come.