Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson enters the 2021 season on unfamiliar terrain.
Jefferson has been underrated and overlooked for years — be it his status as a two-star recruit out of high school and walk-on at LSU or being passed on by five different teams in the 2020 NFL Draft.
But this upcoming season, the secret is out. Jefferson is a force to stay in the NFL.
The 21-year-old re-set the rookie receiving yards record that stood for 17 years with a 1,400-yard season in 2020. Opposing teams will prioritize knocking Jefferson off his game — plans which he hopes to sabotage with unwavering film study and practice this offseason.
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‘I’ve Got a Target on My Back Now’
In an interview with GQ, Jefferson explained his preparation for his second NFL season.
“To be honest, I’ve tried to add anything possible. I’ve been watching a lot of guys’ film. I literally sit at the computer all day watching different film, highlights, just different ways to improve my game. I’m always trying to look for different ways to step my game up,” Jefferson said in response to there being more film on him this offseason.
“There’s more guys looking at me. I’ve got a target on my back now. I’ve got to do better than I did last year. Going into year two I know how the game is now. You know? I’ve experienced it, I’ve got a bit more information, I’m a little bit more comfortable now that I’ve had a year under my belt,” Jefferson added.
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Jefferson Cross-Training to Improve Receiving Skills
Jefferson has spoke about his offseason work and trying to add more wiggle to his routes and cuts. The term is easier seen than understood as he likened it to the skills a point guard might use when crossing a defender in basketball, which he’s been playing in the offseason.
“Using all those crossover moves, it’s just like being a receiver. Trying to win that one-on-one battle and get past the guy in front of you,” Jefferson said. “Actually, I’ve been playing basketball just trying to work on my crossover to translate it from the court to the field.”
Jefferson finished last season as the second-ranked wide receiver in the league by Pro Football Focus, trailing only Green Bay Packers All-Pro Davante Adams.
Despite finally gaining the recognition he deserves, Jefferson maintained that him carrying the same fight he’s had his whole career is what allowed him to have a breakout rookie campaign.
“I kept that same fight I’ve had my entire life. I’ve been doubted my whole career. There’s been people who never thought I was that top-tier guy,” Jefferson said. “So I wanted to prove other people wrong, really. I went out there and did my thing and got Kirk [Cousins] to throw me the ball.”
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