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Lunchbreak: Jefferson Generating Buzz for Offensive Rookie of the Year Award

Sometimes it's easy to forget Justin Jefferson is just 12 games into his NFL career.

The Vikings wide receiver is putting together a rare rookie season, as he has 61 catches for 1,039 yards (17.03 yards per catch) with seven touchdowns.

Jefferson ranks fourth in the NFL in receiving yards, and is tied for the seventh-most receiving touchdowns.

The former LSU standout has impressed Vikings coaches and teammates, but also those outside of Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

And as a result, Jefferson is generating plenty of buzz to be the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Just ask Adam Schein of, who wrote:

There are still four weeks to go in the regular season, but for this Associated Press voter, the worm has turned in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race. With all due respect to Justin Herbert, Justin Jefferson has been the most dominant, most consistent rookie in 2020.

With nine catches for 121 yards and a touchdown in Minnesota's overtime win over Jacksonville, Jefferson became the fifth player in the Super Bowl era to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in his first 12 career games. Three of the previous four (Randy Moss, Anquan Boldin and Odell Beckham, Jr.) went on to earn Offensive ROY honors. (Marques Colston finished second to Vince Young in the 2006 voting.) Vikings GM Rick Spielman deserves so much credit for stealing the LSU star with the 22nd pick, making him the fifth wide receiver off the board.

On a local level, Chad Graff covers the Vikings for The Athletic. He also tabbed Jefferson as the player who should be taking home that award at the end of the season.

Graff wrote:

While the award certainly favors quarterbacks, it's not quite as QB-centric as other honors like MVP. In the last seven years, quarterbacks have won offensive rookie of the year only twice whereas running backs have won it four times. (Odell Beckham, Jr., and Percy Harvin are the only two wide receivers to win the award since 2003.)

If the season ended today, Jefferson would take home the trophy. With 121 more yards and another touchdown added on Sunday, Jefferson has taken a clear lead in the race for the award. With 1,039 receiving yards, Jefferson ranks fourth in the NFL in that category.

Previously, Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert all had reasonable cases to beat out Jefferson for the nod. But Burrow's season is over due to an injury. Tagovailoa has only started five games. And while Herbert may be Jefferson's best competition, he's averaging only five yards per attempt with one touchdown and three interceptions the last two weeks.

So it's Jefferson's award to lose now. He's already notched the second-most receiving yards by a rookie wide receiver through 12 games, only trailing Beckham, Jr. And I know this is a point that's been made several times, but Jefferson wasn't even really playing until Week 3. He's averaging 97 yards per game since then and has totaled seven touchdowns in those 10 games.

It's frankly absurd how good Jefferson has been. If he keeps up this pace, it'll be a rookie season for the record books.

The Vikings have had four players win the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award since its inception in 1967.

Running back Chuck Foreman won it in 1973, followed by Randy Moss (1998), Adrian Peterson (2007) and Percy Harvin (2009). Paul Flatley won Rookie of the Year honors from The Associated Press in 1963.

Jefferson has again been nominated for the Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Week. Vote for him here between now and 2 p.m. (CT) Friday.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.

Scoggins: Final 4 games will define wild Vikings season

Minnesota's 2020 season has already been filled with numerous twists and turns.

The Vikings got off to a poor start at 1-5, with the team hampered by turnovers and inconsistency on defense.

But Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's team has steadied the ship of late, winning five of six to pull to 6-6, and to currently occupy the seventh and final playoff spot in the NFC.

But with four games to go, columnist Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune recently wrote that Minnesota's 2020 story will be defined by the final four regular-season games.

Scoggins wrote:

Act III of the strangest season in team history officially starts now. That they are even in this position is a testament to their ability to stay engaged mentally and competitively, a gift from the schedule-makers and the fact that the NFL is filled with lousy teams.

But here they are, holding the NFC's seventh seed, the final playoff position, with four games left. The safe bet is that the Vikings need to go 3-1 to keep a playoff spot, which means they likely need to win either at Tampa Bay or at New Orleans, and also not trip up against Chicago or at Detroit.

This stretch will set the record on two fronts: Can the Vikings win in a higher weight class? And can Dalvin Cook make it to the finish line without collapsing from exhaustion?

The Vikings have looked really good, really bad and really mediocre at various times this season. They have been consistent in being confounding, which is another way of saying inconsistent. That attribute in a team is a surefire way to drive outside observers bonkers.

Minnesota's final quarter of the 2020 season begins Sunday at Tampa Bay, which is in sixth in the NFC Standings and coming off its bye. The Vikings then come home to host the Bears, followed by road games in New Orleans (on Christmas Day), and Detroit in Week 17.