Minnesota Vikings star wide receiver and newly crowned NFL Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson has rocketed off to a legendary start to his professional career. Through 50 games, Jefferson has already accumulated 4,825 receiving yards, a record for a player’s first three years in the league.
That got MinnesotaBets.com thinking about Cris Carter’s career franchise record of 12,383 receiving yards, set in 188 games. Were Jefferson to continue producing at his current pace, he would be set to break Carter’s all-time Vikings receiving yards record in just 79 more games (4 full seasons + 11 weeks of a 5th season). While that might not be realistic, MinnesotaBets.com crunched the numbers to determine odds for when Jefferson could most likely usurp Carter atop the franchise leaderboard.
Can He Continue To Produce At Such A High Level?
Despite his brilliance, expecting Jefferson to sustain the level of play he has demonstrated so far is a tough ask.
His 96.5 career receiving yards per game average stands 8.6 yards per game better than anyone else in NFL history, and while decline phases are baked into the stats of players ranking below him, few have ever reached that kind of peak to begin with. After hauling in 1,616 yards last season, Jefferson recorded 1,809 yards this year, giving him two of the just 26 individual 1,600 plus yard receiving seasons in league history.
Only five other players have eclipsed 1,600 receiving yards in a season twice (Calvin Johnson. Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt) and only two others (Johnson and Brown) did it in consecutive seasons like Jefferson. While Jefferson has the advantage of a 17th regular season game, a third career 1,600-yard season at any point would be unprecedented. It's too bad there is no Minnesota sports betting to offer any action on his pursuit.
Plus even in the midst of all-time great runs, variance can still abound. Jerry Rice, the gold standard at the receiver position, produced 11 consecutive 1,000 seasons while averaging 1,404.5 yards per year between 1986 and 1996, but during that stretch he had six seasons with at least 1,483 yards and five with 1,306 yards or fewer.
When Will Jefferson Break the Vikings Career Receiving Record?
Looking At Jefferson's Contemporaries
Jones, who ranks second behind Jefferson on the career yards per game list, logged six straight seasons with 1,394 yards or more in one of the most insane runs of form ever. He still needed 135 games in a Falcons uniform to set his franchise mark of 12,896 receiving yards, only 513 yards more than the Vikings record.
And that was with an 82-game stretch where he averaged 104.6 yards per game. Jefferson's performances continue to help the Vikings playoff chances.
Brown went on a similar run to Jones, erupting for 1,524.2 yards per season from 2013 to 2018 in Pittsburgh as Jones averaged 1,564.7 yards per season in Atlanta from 2014 to 2019. Brown now finds himself out of the league after 146 games.
Even Johnson, maybe the most physically dominant player ever to play the position, could only muster three seasons at the top of his game, averaging 111.7 yards per game from 2011 to 2013 (he missed 2 games in 2013).
Maintaining such a high level of consistency relies on a number of factors. Injuries, off the field issues or just a plain erosion of skills with aging can derail even the most promising of careers, not to mention how quarterback play can impact a receiver’s numbers.
Why Jefferson Has A Chance
The Vikings current setup allows Jefferson to feast on targets, as 184 of the team’s 672 pass attempts (27.4%) came his way in 2022, but that was not always the case. Although Minnesota threw the ball more than all but two teams this season, they ranked 11th in total pass attempts in 2021 and 27th in that category Jefferson’s rookie year.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips may continue to empower this aerial attack for now, but Kirk Cousins turns 35 in August and is only under contract through 2023. While Cousins is by no means a superstar, he has proven plenty capable of leading productive offenses and there is no guarantee a new signal caller has the same rapport with Jefferson.
Minnesota will also need to hand Jefferson a new deal before he comes close to breaking the franchise receiving record and reports indicate he wants the largest non-quarterback contract ever. (Clearly, he has a case!)
That could prove to be the biggest hurdle on his way to the top of Vikings receiving lore, as Jefferson has proven extremely durable, playing in every possible game since cracking the two-deep as sophomore at LSU in 2018.