Fantasy football player profile: Justin Jefferson


(As fantasy football dives headlong into draft season, some players warrant a little extra attention. All August, Dom Cintorino and Adam Pfeifer will do deep dives into some of the notable names. Follow along with our player profiles series. Today’s profile: Justin Jefferson)

Fantasy football value 2021 – Justin Jefferson

No rookie made a bigger splash in their first NFL season than “Jets” Justin Jefferson. While he fell short of the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, JJ was nothing short of impressive. In what was arguably one of the best wide receiver draft classes in quite some time, Jefferson separated himself from the bunch in 2020. There was an immediate chip on his shoulder following draft night, as four wide receivers were selected ahead of him.

Jefferson was the only rookie receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards, and he did that with ease. His 1,400 total receiving yards on the season broke Anquan Boldin’s rookie record 1,377 yards that he posted back in 2003. Posting this type of number on just 88 total receptions on the season is quite impressive. Jefferson had the third-highest YPC (15.6) of all receivers who saw 100-plus targets on the season. His seven scores were fairly low, ranking T17 among wide receivers. We should expect to see some positive regression in the touchdown department, which only means one thing: more griddys. 

Jefferson got off to an extremely slow start, turning six targets into five receptions for a total of 70 receiving yards in Weeks 1-2 combined. These relative struggles were primarily due to limited opportunities. It was clear that the Vikings had a plan to ease their 22nd overall pick into the offense. Especially since there was a modified offseason with no pre-season games. In his first two games, Jefferson saw snap shares of 69.23% in Week 1, 53.7% in Week 2. Both marks were two of his four lowest on the season. Jefferson’s involvement in the offense continued to rise through the season, as he ended with a total snap share of 81.89%. This was second among Vikings’ wide receivers, as Adam Thielen ended the season with 85.58%.

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Taking a look at FTN’s advanced receiving stats, Jefferson was as good on paper as he was on tape. He had a first read share of 29%, which ranked third behind Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins. Considering his high YPC, this first read share is quite impressive. While Jefferson was elite as a deep threat, he was also able to shine on some of the shorter routes as well. He still averaged 11.2 yards per target, second behind only Will Fuller (11.57). One of the more impressive FTN premium stats when it comes to wide receivers is their created receptions. This is an advanced stat that tracks the number of difficult receptions a receiver makes over the course of the season. Jefferson had five last season, the second most of any wide receiver. He also excelled when it came to contested catches. Jefferson made seven receptions on a total of 11 contested targets, with both numbers ranking top-five. Another great receiving tool that FTN offers is the deep receiving stats. Jefferson racked up 12 receptions on targets that were 20-plus yards. There were only two receivers with more last season: Calvin Ridley (15), and Tyreek Hill (13). (Check out our fantasy football player profile on Ridley.) On these deep passes, Jefferson piled up a total of 415 yards. He also scored four of his seven touchdowns on these deep targets. Seeing a receiver rate out well on both the short and long passes is always a good sign.

When it comes to the Vikings skill positions, there were not a whole lot of changes this offseason. They recently brought in Dede Westbrook on a one-year contract to serve as the No. 3 wide receiver. Kyle Rudolph stands as the only key departure from this offense, with the Vikings cutting ties with this offseason. He’s leaving behind just 37 targets that he saw in just 12 games. Irv Smith and fourth-year tight end Tyler Conklin will pick up expanded roles in the offense. However, this won’t have an impact on Jefferson’s role. He was the most targeted Vikings’ player in 2020, with a target share of 25.61% on 125 targets. This was the fifth-highest share among wide receivers.

FTN’s 2021 season projections currently has Jefferson finishing as the WR7 in PPR scoring. While that would be a successful season, these projections do show a bit of regression from last season. It projects Jefferson to see eight more targets, but catch 2 fewer for almost 100 fewer yards than the 1,400 he posted a season ago. Even though it is a decline in receiving yards, it’s still the fifth-highest projection among wide receivers. The touchdown number is right at the seven he had last year. It’s difficult to project touchdowns, but if he sees an increase in end zone targets, we should see this number get closer to double digits. 

Fantasy football ADP stock watch – Justin Jefferson

Per the FTN Fantasy ADP tool, Justin Jefferson is being drafted as the seventh wide receiver off fantasy football boards. This tool allows you to see ADPs across all major fantasy football sites, with Jefferson comfortably inside the top 10. He currently holds a cumulative ADP of 23.49, which puts him right at the back end of the second round. This seems to be the spot in drafts where wide receivers start to fly off the draft board, especially when managers decide to start by selecting back-to-back running backs. Looking at Jefferson’s ADP from month to month, there is not a whole lot of change. In June, his ADP was 23.55 and dropped just slightly to 23.51 by July. We don’t have a whole lot of data from the month of August quite yet, but Jefferson took a slight drop yet again, sitting at 23.49. When comparing his overall stock from June to July with the rest of the wide receivers, nobody else in the top 100 picks had an ADP this steady. The closest to this would be DK Metcalf, who is just ahead of Jefferson in terms of ADP. FTN’s Adam Pfeifer wrote an excellent piece in his “ADP Decisions” series breaking down the debate between Metcalf and Jefferson.

A lot has to do with the situation Jefferson is in, as there have not been very many changes. Adam Thielen is still there, and Jefferson is coming off a dominant rookie season. No coachspeak or offseason highlights will be able to move Jefferson from where he is currently being drafted. We should expect his stock to remain steady, as a late-second, early-third round pick. If you want a piece of the second-year superstar, you’re going to have to pay a premium. 

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NFL fantasy football ranking – Justin Jefferson

(Check out Jeff Ratcliffe’s top 100 0.5 PPR rankings.)

FTN Fantasy currently has Justin Jefferson ranked as the ninth wide receiver in PPR scoring. He ranked as high as seventh and as low as 15th. As mentioned in the ADP section above, we shouldn’t see a whole lot of movement in Jefferson’s rank. While there will be receivers that make leaps (like CeeDee Lamb), no leap will be large enough to pass Jefferson. He’s a solidified top-10 wide receiver heading into fantasy football drafts for 2021.

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