Justin Jefferson Fantasy Football Outlook & Value 2021

Justin Jefferson had a phenomenal rookie campaign in Minnesota as he caught 88 balls for 1,400 yards and 7 touchdowns. It wound up being one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history as Jefferson finished as the WR6 in half-PPR scoring. The Vikings’ defensive improvement could pave a path to fewer passing attempts in 2021, and Minnesota will hope to have a true playoff contender this season. However, there’s no doubt that Jefferson is one of the team’s best young players and is one of the most exciting young wide receiver talents in the league. He has tremendous fantasy football upside once again in 2021.

2020 Recap 

RECSREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
881,4007230.214.4

Jefferson didn’t take long to begin to show the world why he was under drafted as the fifth wide receiver off the board in a loaded draft class. I must admit, I was not a strong believer in Jefferson coming out of LSU. However, he proved me wrong very quickly in Week 3 of last season when he caught 7 balls for 175 yards and a touchdown. From that point forward, he was a huge part of the Vikings’ offense as he surpassed 100 receiving yards in seven of his fourteen starts. The touchdowns weren’t quite there for Jefferson, but that could change in 2021 as he continues to improve his game.

2021 Projection 

RECSREC YDSREC TDSFPTSFPPG
91.31,452.49244.914.4

Jefferson put together a phenomenal rookie season, finishing as the WR6 in half-PPR scoring. While I’m projecting a bit more production for him this year, I have him projected as my WR7 in half-PPR scoring as everyone is slated for a full 17-game season in my stats. Jefferson will likely continue to eat into Thielen’s target share as he’s not getting any younger, and Jefferson has the potential to see more red-zone work this season as well. I have both receivers down for 9 touchdowns, a slight uptick for Jefferson, and a significant downtick from Thielen’s 14 touchdowns last season.

ADP & Auction Value 

ADP: 25, Round 2, WR8

Auction Value: $27

Justin Jefferson is currently being drafted ahead of proven fantasy football superstars such as Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen, Allen Robinson, Mike Evans, and Amari Cooper. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, but if you’re going to take the plunge in the second round with Jefferson, you have to understand you’re drafting him much closer to his ceiling than his floor.

Floor

There’s a strong track record of having two high-level fantasy receivers in Minnesota dating back to when Stefon Diggs shared the field with Adam Thielen. In 2018, Minnesota finished as a top ten defense in both yards and points allowed, but their passing game was still highly productive. Thielen caught 113 passes for 1,373 yards and 9 touchdowns while Diggs caught 102 passes for 1,021 yards and 9 touchdowns; that’s a combined 215 catches for 2,394 yards and 18 touchdowns. I have Thielen and Jefferson down for a combined 170 catches for 2,453 yards and 18 touchdowns, which is very similar to what Thielen and Diggs produced in 2018. Assuming he stays healthy, the floor for Jefferson is likely somewhere around the WR15 after how great he looked last season.

Ceiling 

The Vikings will give Jefferson every opportunity to dominate the passing game again in 2021, and his ceiling is massive as a result. In 2020, Jefferson suffered from not having a real offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic and not getting to work with his new teammates much before the season. He said this offseason’s in-person practices have been “definitely way better than sitting in front of a computer.” Jefferson also said he and quarterback Kirk Cousins are “definitely building a stronger connection than last year.” Despite a lack of familiarity between quarterback and receiver, Jefferson still sported an elite 70.4% catch rate in his rookie year. Even a slight uptick in volume could result in a top-five finish at the wide receiver position with that type of efficiency.

Minnesota Vikings Offense 

Minnesota VikingsThe Vikings have continuously invested in their offensive line in the draft, and rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw should hit the ground running as a high-level starter with a huge production ceiling. Garrett Bradbury, Ezra Cleveland, and Brian O’Neill were all first or second-round picks, as well, and should continue to develop into solid starters. Dakota Dozier represents a significant hole at left guard, but the blocking should be pretty solid overall. Dalvin Cook was impossibly good last season with 312 carries for 1,557 yards and 44 catches for 361 yards, along with 17 total touchdowns in just 14 games. He’s one of the best talents in the league at the running back position. As I already mentioned, Adam Thielen caught 14 touchdown passes last year, a number surely due for some regression, while Jefferson should see more opportunity in that regard. Beyond those two, there isn’t much in the way of proven pass-catching talent on this roster. Vikings fans can usually take it or leave it with Cousins, and while many are on the leave-it side of things more often than not, the veteran quarterback is coming off a solid season. Cousins completed 67.6% of his passes for 4,265 yards and 35 touchdowns (career-high) to 13 interceptions last year. The Vikings scored 26.9 points per game last year, the 11th-most in the NFL, and should be a top-end offense again this season.

Strength of Schedule  

The Vikings’ schedule pits them against defenses that allowed the 15th-most fantasy points to wide receivers last year. In other words, the strength of the schedule for Justin Jefferson is exactly average. Jefferson does have to play the Packers (4th) and Bears (8th) twice, two of the top-ten fantasy defenses against wide receivers last year. However, he topped 100 yards in both of his matchups with Chicago last season. The Lions (31st) were much more generous to opposing wide receivers, and Jefferson had a combined 12 catches for 197 yards in two games against them in 2020. Jefferson also faces all four AFC North teams, which is a mixed bag as the Ravens (5th), Steelers (10th), and Bengals (13th) were pretty tough against wide receivers while the Browns (24th) were easier out in 2020. To be fair to Cleveland, they did invest significant resources in their secondary this offseason, so perhaps they’ll improve in that regard. Minnesota also faces the NFC West, a division featuring the Cardinals (14th) and 49ers (16th), who were average in terms of fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, as well as the Seahawks (28th), who were one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. Of course, Jefferson also has to play Jalen Ramsey and the Rams, who allowed the fewest fantasy points to WRs. Rounding out the schedule are the Chargers (7th), Panthers (11th), and Cowboys (29th). Jefferson definitely has some tough matchups throughout this slate and some games where Cousins may not need to throw all that much with their defense taking advantage of some weaker offensive outfits.

Bottom Line

The sophomore season in the NFL is typically one reserved for impressive breakouts at the wide receiver position, but Jefferson already hit the ground running in his rookie year. With a full offseason with his team, a starting role from day 1, and an offense looking to get him involved early and often, there’s still plenty to love about Jefferson in 2021. He’s worthy of a pick in the first three rounds of your fantasy draft as he truly does have top-five upside, and I’m excited to see what this great young talent does next.

2021 Fantasy Football Player Outlooks
I've been writing about sports for Lineups since the beginning of 2020 and on my own website since 2018. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. I've been playing fantasy football for as long as I can remember and am now in far more leagues than any person should take part in. There are few things that give me as much joy and excitement as fantasy football, and I'm excited to share my input with you in your journey towards a championship.

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