EAGAN, Minn. – They won't be on the field at the same time, but fans could see a show from opposing receivers Justin Jefferson and CeeDee Lamb this weekend.
The Vikings are hosting the Cowboys for Sunday Night Football, and there's sure to be plenty of eyes on the pair of 2020 first-round draft picks.
Since being drafted by Minnesota 22nd overall, Jefferson has 129 catches for 1,942 yards and 10 touchdowns. Dallas drafted Lamb 17th overall; he has 107 catches for 1,432 yards and nine scores.
ESPN's Courtney Cronin and Todd Archer talked with "several NFL personnel executives to discuss the traits that make Lamb and Jefferson so special." They delved into a number of categories, starting with Run After the Catch. An NFL assistant general manager said the following of Lamb:
"CeeDee's an excellent route runner, but he's probably better with the ball in his hands than Jefferson. Once he gets his hands on the ball, especially in college, he was a threat to take it the distance, even if it was a hitch or a slant. He's probably better on those 45-degree angle cuts, like posts and speed outs and routes that don't require him to come to a stop."
Meanwhile, an NFC area scout said the following of Jefferson's run-after-catch abilities:
"He'll catch the ball, and he's looking to make a play. His [run after catch] was really, really good. I always say he had one of the top wiggles in that draft, meaning he can make that first guy miss and he could take it to the house at any given time. You saw his playmaking ability probably a little bit more, and you saw it jump out at you on tape."
Cronin and Archer also reported back feedback received for Hands and Route Running.
It is difficult to create separation in a league filled with terrific athletes, but Lamb and Jefferson have that ability. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Lamb averages 2.86 yards from the neatest defender at the time of pass arrival, and Jefferson averages 2.79 yards.
According to Next Gen Stats, Lamb has had a max speed of 20.72 mph (Week 5 against the New York Giants), and Jefferson has had a max speed of 20.15 mph (Week 4 against the Cleveland Browns).
"He's a savvy route runner, explosive," an NFC player personnel director said of Jefferson. "He knows how to step on people's toes, and then he's fearless in going to catch the football."
Cousins-Jefferson among NFL's top 10 QB-pass catcher combos for 2021
As noted above, Jefferson is continuing to shine in his second NFL season.
And so is Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who through six games is 166-of-239 passing for 1,769 yards, 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His passer rating is 105.4.
NFL.com's Nick Shook on Thursday ranked the league's top 10 quarterback-pass catcher combos of the 2021 season, and he placed Cousins and Jefferson 10th on the list. Shook wrote:
Jefferson nearly won Offensive Rookie of the Year last season by being a big-play threat, but he's adjusted his output ever so slightly in 2021. Jefferson is averaging 13.2 yards per reception this season by using his presence to force defenses to account for him over the top and feasting in the space left open underneath. Cousins and Jefferson have teamed up to record the most completions (17), yards (288) and the highest completion percentage over expected (+28) on intermediate passes this season. Instead of just streaking down the sideline or the middle of the field for long completions, Jefferson is winning at shorter distances, running the sharp routes that made him a first-rounder in the 2020 draft. It's the ideal fit for an offense built off wide-zone schemes and play action, allowing the young pass catcher to produce at a stellar rate once again.
Of the other nine duos, the Vikings have played – or will play – seven of them this season, including Ravens QB Lamar Jackson and TE Mark Andrews. The Vikings will play the Ravens in Baltimore in Week 9.
A week after landing atop my tight end rankings, Andrews is the only TE on this list. The former third-round pick has again become a primary target for Jackson in the Ravens passing game, and it has proven to be a productive connection. Andrews and Jackson have connected 37 times for 516 yards and three touchdowns, and they're exceeding expectation at a rate of +5.5 percent. […] Andrews has recorded the most receiving yards on crossing routes of anyone in the NFL this season, and he's been a trusty target when in a big spot. Just look at Andrews' performance in Baltimore's come-from-behind win over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football. In the final 10 minutes of regulation, Andrews caught two touchdown passes — and two 2-point conversions! — to ultimately send the game to overtime. He's far from finished, especially as the Ravens rely more on the passing game each week.
View photos of Vikings players from practice on Oct. 28 at the TCO Performance Center.