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Lunchbreak: Jefferson Helps Sway NFC-AFC Comparison at Receiver

Through the first 57 Super Bowls, teams from the NFC (which emerged from the NFL) have claimed 29, and teams from the AFC (which emerged from the AFL) have won 28.

While one team represents each conference in the big game each year, there are some other debates about which conference is stronger in particular areas.

CBS Sports' Jared Dubin approached this topic with a position-by-position breakdown on offense.

Dubin categorized the AFC as having a "huge" advantage at quarterback but wrote the edge at receiver resides with the NFC.

Dubin wrote:

This is an interesting one because there are probably more imposing individual wide receivers corps in the AFC than in the NFC. I'm not sure any NFC team can rival Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, or Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, or Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. The Eagles have A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, but they're the only team that comes close to matching the level of top-end duos or trios that the AFC has.

But there are also more AFC teams with sort of blah receiver corps, and the talent is just more spread out in the NFC overall. There's CeeDee Lamb, Terry McLaurin, D.J. Moore, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Justin Jefferson, Drake London, Chris Olave, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Not to mention rookies like Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Jordan Addison, and [NFC] arrivals like Brandin Cooks. The AFC also has stars like Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, Garrett Wilson and Amari Cooper, but the depth of talent isn't there like it is in the NFC.

That's why I wasn't necessarily surprised to discover that despite AFC quarterbacks being better overall, the NFC receivers out-performed those from the AFC last season. They were targeted more often, caught a higher share of their targets, averaged more yards per route run, created more yards after the catch, had a higher success rate, and dropped the ball less often. They were flat-out better. With the talent on hand, we can expect that to continue.

Several stats backed up Dubin's case, even if the margins were small at receiver.

NFC receivers had a higher target rate (19.4 to 18.4 percent) and catch percentage (64.1 to 62.5), as well as a better average of yards after catch/reception (4.39 to 4.13) and a lower drop rate (3.8 to 4.6 percent).

Jefferson caught 128 passes on 184 targets for a catch percentage of 69.6 in 2022. His average yards after catch/reception were 4.9, and his drop rate was only 2.7 percent.

View photos of the top 10 receivers of all-time for the Vikings.

ESPN's Barnwell Takes Deep Dive on RB Compensation

Former Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who was released this summer, is among a group of proven players at the position who remain free agents in mid-July, just days before teams begin reporting to training camps.

That list includes Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette.

ESPN's Bill Barnwell took a deep dive to examine the factors affecting valuation of running backs across the NFL.

He developed a list of "six reasons RBs have been devalued" and tries to identify the point in time when a seismic shift in the approach toward the position began.

From my perspective, the running back value conversation dates back to [Sean] McVay's old boss and one of the league's best offenses. Mike Shanahan's Denver teams produced huge numbers with a series of unheralded rookies, undrafted free agents and journeymen rotating through at running back. The most famous and successful back of the bunch, Hall of Famer[Terrell Davis], was a sixth-round pick in 1995.

Tracing back through draft data all the way to 1981 in five-year increments, Barnwell noted a decrease from 55 percent of the running backs from 1986-90 being first-round picks to only 38.7 from 1991-95.

From 2016-22, the percentage of running backs sourced by first-round picks has fallen to 26.5 percent.