Living in the fantasy world is fun. It is a place where we can fly by swimming, have our cake and eat it, and score touchdowns without being a crash dummy. But it is not all good because sometimes we become so absorbed in that realm that we lose sight of what is right in front of us. Digging into the Minnesota Vikings wide receiver situation, I’ve uncovered such a situation. Justin Jefferson, the first round pick, is being drafted as the 134th overall player and 52nd wide receiver in NFFC drafts from 7/1 to 8/16. Olabisi Johnson, though, is the 169th wide receiver and 564th overall player being selected. Reality is definitely skewed. Here’s why.
First and foremost, the Rona has laid waste to NFL offseason programs. As a result, rookies are going to have a more difficult time adjusting to new teammates, playbooks, and level of competition. Justin Jefferson is a rookie. Could he pick things up quickly? Sure, but he’s behind Olabisi Johnson as of now. During the first day of Vikings training camp, Jefferson was running with the second team while Johnson was lining up opposite Adam Thielen.
I realize that it’s early and Jefferson could indeed work his way up the depth chart but, but, but….
Olabisi isn’t a bad player despite being drafted in the 7th round of the 2019 NFL draft. The DraftNetwork had PROS: Good quickness and body control. Understands how to manipulate cornerbacks. Good route runner. Tough runner with the ball. Excellent work ethic. CONS: Slows down on breaks and doesn’t maintain leverage. Projected for slot work. Limited exposure in college. More importantly, he developed a rapport with Cousins last season. He was targetd 45 times and caught 31 passes for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns and started six games when Thielen went down. Now, the depth of target (6.5) wasn’t impressive and neither was the volume, but let’s not forget that he was a rookie last season.
Jefferson has the draft pedigree and is the more physically gifted player, but Olabisi is no slouch in the metrics department either.
|40-yard dash||Speed Score||Burst Score||Agility Score||Catch Radius|
|Justin Jefferson||4.43 (86th)||104.9 (82nd)||126.8 (79th)||N/A||N/A|
|Olabisi Johnson||4.51 (63rd)||97.3 (61st)||126.6 (79th)||11.04 (72nd)||10.10 (70th)|
(Courtesy of PlayerProfiler.com)
Well, if Olabisi is starting opposite Thielen, then Jefferson will just make his hay in 3-WR sets from the slot, right? Back in June, Gary Kubiak said that about Jefferson, “He’ll move inside quite a bit,” which makes sense because scored 18 touchdowns and garnered 1,518 yards from the slot at LSU last season. “He’s exactly what we drafted. We knew he was a very talented young man who had comfort zone in the slot because he did that a lot.” Here’s the thing, though. According to Sharp Football Stats, the Vikings utilized 11 personnel on 25% of plays. The league average was 60%, so Jefferson would have to straight up beat Olabisi for the starting role. It could and may happen, especially due to the draft capital spent on Jefferson, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. The use of 11 personnel could increase some this season, but it will likely be well below the league average.
In my Adam Thielen post, I wrote that Cousins is expected to throw for more than the 444 passes he attempted last season, up to around 540. Thielen is going to gobble up a ton of those, but even if we were to give him 200 targets, that still leaves 340. The tight ends will get their fair share and Jefferson will get his as well, but tt’s not out of the realm of possibility that Olabisi gets enough targets to be fantasy relevant.
Could Olabisi crap the bed? Sure, but he showed last season that he was more than capable of producing at the highest level. Could Jefferson ball out and overtake Olabisi on the depth chart? Sure, but here’s the thing: Olabisi is free in drafts and is currently the number two until proven otherwise. We are living in the fantasy world right now that Jefferson is the number two behind Thielen, but the reality of the situation is that he has obstacles to overcome first. I’m willing to take a chance with my last pick on getting the number two wide receiver on a team that will likely throw more than last year. If it doesn’t work out, no biggie, but the reward far outweighs the cost.