Justin Jefferson already has two phenomenal seasons under his belt, and he's only 22 years old.
Jefferson, who will turn 23 on June 16, was recently included in analytics site Pro Football Focus' list of "Top 25 Under 25." PFF's Trevor Sikkema ranked the Vikings receiver fifth in the group. Sikkema wrote:
Jefferson burst on the scene as a rookie with 1,400 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns, earning an elite 90.4 grade. He followed that up with an even better 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns with another elite 90.1 grade. For him to step on the pro stage and look that dominant out of the gate, then to prove that it was no fluke the following year, solidifies him as one of the best young players in the game, regardless of position.
The four players ranked ahead of Jefferson were as follows, from 1-4: 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, Colts running back Jonathan Taylor and Buccaneers tackle Tristan Wirfs.
The Vikings could have their hands full with Taylor in Week 15 when Minnesota hosts Indianapolis
After averaging more than 2,000 rushing yards per season in three years at Wisconsin, Taylor continued doing what he does best with 1,169 rushing yards as a rookie. He followed that up by becoming the youngest player in NFL history with at least 2,000 yards from scrimmage and tying the record for most consecutive 100-yard rushing games while tallying 1,811 rushing yards and 366 receiving yards in 2021. He led the NFL in scrimmage yards, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns (18) at just 22 years old. He's also averaged an impressive 5.0 and 5.5 yards per attempt in each of the past two seasons. If Taylor stays healthy, he'll be one of the best backs in the league for a long, long time.
Beyond Jefferson, Sikkema included just one other NFC North player: Packers edge rusher Rashan Gary, who filled in last season when now-Viking Za'Darius Smith missed time because of an injury.
Gary hit multiple career-highs in 2021. With Za'Darius Smith out for most of the season, he recorded 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, 28 quarterback hits, eight tackles for loss and 47 combined tackles. His 81 total pressures ranked third in the league among edge rushers. Smith is now departed from Green Bay, which means that role is now Gary's and his alone. His [21percent] pass-rush win [rate] is the best rate of any edge rusher from the 2019 class, including Nick Bosa.
He was drafted to be a star on that defensive line, and it appears he has fully arrived.
The Vikings will host Gary and the Packers in Week 1 and visit Lambeau Field in Week 17.
Sessler: Vikings top offseason priority should be O'Connell-Cousins chemistry
With the opening of free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft now in the rear-view window, teams across the league have addressed roster holes and finalized coaching decisions.
So at this point, what are teams' biggest focuses between now and training camp?
NFL.com's Marc Sessler opined every NFC team's "top offseason priority" and pointed to the coach-quarterback relationship in Minnesota. Sessler said the Vikings priority should be "ensuring that [Kirk] Cousins and [Head Coach Kevin] O'Connell jive" with one another. Sessler wrote:
Minnesota brass is counting on [Mike] Zimmer's replacement, Kevin O'Connell, to [get] the most out of Cousins, a task that begins with the installation of an offense that should bring a Rams-esque feel to U.S. Bank Stadium. Film maven Nate Tice noted last year's Vikings ranked dead last employing 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE), while the Rams ranked second. Translation: We could see much more of Justin Jefferson all over the formation, including the slot, where he wreaked havoc at LSU. All the big names have returned for the Vikings, but how they're used could be a new-look treat.
Within the division, it will be interesting to see what transpires in Chicago, where Sessler said the top priority should be making sure quarterback Justin Fields isn't burned "in the storm of a rebuild."
The Bears have made it crystal clear that 2022 is being sacrificed for tomorrow's riches. GM Ryan Poles operates with a fair amount of swagger and appears to have a plan, but he's saddled with dueling agendas: Tearing down the roster for something sturdier while also managing the young career of Fields. The second-year quarterback is learning the playbook from scratch under new [Offensive Coordinator] Luke Getsy and is tasked with throwing the ball to a gaggle of suspect targets. Darnell Mooney can play, but asking Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown and rookie Velus Jones to save the day is a sketchy scenario.
To read Sessler's full list of NFC offseason priorities, click here.