2020 NFL Draft: Justin Jefferson lands starting role with Vikings, but targets could be hard to come by

The Vikings traded their leading receiver from 2019 early in the offseason, and they snagged his replacement with the No. 22 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Justin Jefferson. Jefferson might replace Diggs on the field, but can he replace him in Fantasy players hearts and rosters?

That’s a tougher call. Jefferson is a terrific prospect, who was hugely productive in college and tested well at the Combine, so there isn’t much reason to doubt his skill set. It will be interesting to see if he gets the opportunity to replace Diggs’ role on the Vikings, though; Jefferson saw most of his targets at LSU out of the slot, while Diggs was used more often on the outside. Will Jefferson stick in the slot, moving Adam Thielen to the outside, or will Jefferson get the chance to serve in Diggs’ role, taking the top off of the defense on play action?

Frankly, it might not make a huge difference for Fantasy. While Diggs is out of the picture, this still doesn’t figure to be a hugely valuable role for Fantasy. Diggs managed to be a viable Fantasy wide receiver last year, but that came with Thielen missing six games and Diggs averaging a mammoth 12.0 yards per target. Even in the same role, it would be unfair to expect similar efficiency from even a very talented rookie like Jefferson.

With Thielen healthy, Jefferson figures to be the No. 2 option for Kirk Cousins, whether he’s in the slot or outside. That probably won’t mean more than 90 targets (Diggs had 94, and Dalvin Cook was second on the team with 63). The Vikings may not be quite as run-heavy in 2020 as they were last season, but it’s clear that would be their preference, if everything goes right. 

That doesn’t mean Jefferson should be ignored for Fantasy, obviously. Thielen is 30 and struggled to stay healthy last year, so he is no sure thing to dominate targets. If something goes wrong for Thielen, Jefferson could be in line to be Cousins’ top target, which would certainly make him a must-start Fantasy option at that point.

But, at least for his rookie season, you should expect Jefferson to be more of a bench player with upside who will frustrate you on a weekly basis. The opportunity for big plays will be there, but unless the Vikings defense and run game take a significant step back, it’s hard to see Jefferson getting enough targets to be a consistent contributor.

Of course, it’s a different question for those of you in keeper and Dynasty leagues. As Thielen enters his 30’s, Jefferson should step into the No. 1 rule, possibly as soon as 2021. If he develops as hoped for, that should be an extremely valuable role, even if the Vikings remain more run heavy. 

All in all, Jefferson lands on a Vikings team that certainly has a need for him. But that isn’t the same thing as the Vikings being a team with an opportunity for Jefferson to be a consistent Fantasy contributor right away. If you can keep expectations in check, Jefferson will be a very interesting reserve rounds wide receiver to target, with the hopes he blossoms sooner than expected, because there is certainly a path to him becoming a starting option in 2020. 

And the sky is the limit for 2021 and beyond. 

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