Last offseason, Justin Jefferson wasn't afraid to express his confidence in placing himself not just in the upper echelon of today's best NFL receivers, but at the summit itself.
"I'll say after this year I'll be the best receiver in the NFL," Jefferson told Kameron Hay of Complex in July of 2022. "I definitely have to give it to [Las Vegas'] Davante Adams as of now … but I'm pretty sure after this year, it's going to be me."
Over the course of the 2022 season, Jefferson made it difficult to argue with that statement.
He led the league and posted career highs in receptions (128) and receiving yards (1,809), becoming the youngest player in NFL history to do so. Jefferson also broke four franchise records, including surpassing Hall of Famers Cris Carter's and Randy Moss' respective franchise marks for receptions and yards in a single season.
Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune broke down Jefferson's record-setting third season with the Vikings and identified what records could be topped in year four. He wrote:
"Jefferson has sprinted out of the starting blocks of his NFL career, leading a pass-happy league and producing at a faster pace than anyone before him. He already has the most yardage over the first three years. Now he's closing in on modern cohorts — Odell Beckham Jr. (54 games) and Julio Jones (56 games) — to become the fastest player to 5,000 career receiving yards. Jefferson is 175 yards shy through 50 regular-season games."
View the best photos of Vikings WR Justin Jefferson during the 2022 season.
Not only does Jefferson own the highest yardage mark by a player in their first three seasons, but he also has the most 100-yard receiving games during that span. What's even more impressive is that Jefferson's 24 games of breaking the century mark in yards has already surpassed the record for the most through a player's first four seasons, previously held by Moss (23).
What has caused those numbers to be reached so quickly? Krammer turned to first-year Head Coach Kevin O'Connell as a starting point. He wrote:
"The arrival of O'Connell from the Rams, where receiver Cooper Kupp led the NFL in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns the previous season, ensured Jefferson would have a chance to reach the same heights in a pass-heavy offense.
"O'Connell's offense set up Jefferson to catch and run, illustrated by his league-leading yards after the reception among NFL wide receivers."
Justin Jefferson was awarded the 2022 AP Offensive Player of the Year award during NFL Honors.
In 2022, Jefferson posted 613 yards after the catch, 65 yards more than the next highest player (Philadelphia's A.J. Brown at 548).
Jefferson's heavy usage was also a factor. He recorded 28.3 percent of Minnesota's yards from scrimmage this season, which ranked fourth in the NFL for the largest amount by a single player on a team. Tennessee's Derrick Henry (36.1 percent), Las Vegas' Josh Jacobs (32.9 percent) and Cleveland's Nick Chubb (28.5 percent) held the top three spots.
In terms of moving the chains, especially on third and fourth down, there was nobody better in 2022 than Jefferson. Krammer wrote:
"As one of the NFL's most versatile threats, Jefferson consistently hit singles (a league-high 80 first downs) and home runs (a league-high 28 catches of 20-plus yards) to drive the Vikings offense.
"Jefferson [also] led the NFL with 27 first downs and six touchdowns on third and fourth down, according to Pro Football Reference. Amari Cooper and Amon-Ra St. Brown [26 first downs and three touchdowns each] were the closest to matching Jefferson in those key moments."
View photos of Vikings WR Justin Jefferson's "Best Catch" submission for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games in Las Vegas.
Former Vikings to watch during Super Bowl LVII
On Sunday, Kansas City and Philadelphia will clash in Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona.
Both sides bring a lot of star power to the table, including 2022 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce for the Chiefs and Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith for the Eagles.
There's also multiple former Vikings players and coaches to watch on either sideline.
For the Chiefs, tight end Blake Bell played for Minnesota in 2017, recording three catches for 19 yards in 13 games.
View home and away photos of the Vikings 2023 regular season schedule.
Running back Jerick McKinnon was the 96th overall selection by the Vikings in 2014 and played four seasons with Minnesota. He racked up 1,918 rushing yards (19th in team history) on 474 carries (18th in franchise history) and seven touchdowns on the ground (tied for 29th in team history). He added 142 receptions (38th in Vikings history) for 984 yards and five scores through the air.
Wide receiver and practice squad member Ihmir-Smith Marsette was also drafted by Minnesota (157th overall in 2021), appearing in eight games and recording five catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns. He was waived this past August by the Vikings before spending time with Chicago and ultimately landing with Kansas City.
Kansas City Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy was the Vikings running backs coach from 2006-2009 and their assistant head coach and running backs coach in 2010. The Chiefs current running backs coach, Greg Lewis, played two seasons as a wide receiver for the Vikings from 2009-2010. He caught 25 passes for 293 yards and a touchdown — a 32-yard contested grab from Brett Favre along the back of the end zone to secure a 27-24 victory over the 49ers in 2009.
For the Eagles, defensive tackle Linval Joseph played six seasons with Minnesota from 2014-2019 and registered 350 tackles and 15 sacks in 88 career games. He added six forced fumbles and two recoveries, including a 64-yard return for a touchdown against his current team in 2018.
Safety and practice squad member Anthony Harris joined Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and tallied 284 tackles, one forced fumble (four recoveries) and nine interceptions, including a 20-yard pick-six against Seattle in 2019.
Safety Marcus Epps was selected 191st overall by the Vikings in 2019 and played eight games with only one tackle. Linebacker Christian Elliss joined Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2021 but was released before the season.
Philadelphia Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon was the Vikings assistant defensive backs coach from 2014-2017.