Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has landed among elite company for the rookie campaign he’s put together so far.
Jefferson became the fifth wide receiver since 1970 to reach 1,000 receiving yards in their first 12 career games last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, catching nine passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.
It was his fifth 100-plus yard game of the season, breaking Randy Moss’ franchise rookie record of four games with at least 100 receiving yards.
Jefferson being held in the same regard has begged the question of whether he has outshined Moss in his rookie season. While we have the rest of Moss’ career that sets an unavoidable precedent, former Vikings coach Mike Tice weighed in and offered his perspective in comparing the two wideouts.
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Mike Tice: ‘Randy Moss Changed the Game’
Tice came onto the Vikings Territory podcast where hosts Joe Johnson and Oberle asked Tice to lay his stake in the Jefferson-Moss debate. Tice unsurprisingly favored the elder receiver who he coached for seven years.
“Randy Moss was a touchdown magnet. Jefferson doesn’t have quite those types of numbers with the touchdowns. The elite Hall of Famers score a lot of touchdowns,” Tice said. “Jefferson is off to a great start but we’d like to see more touchdowns.”
Moss caught 69 passes for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns in his 1998 rookie year, while Jefferson currently has 61 catches for 1,039 yards and seven TDs. Moss caught fire in the second half of his rookie year, scoring 11 touchdowns in the final seven weeks of the season.
Jefferson may be primed for a similar finish to his rookie year as the 22-year-old wide receiver has scored five touchdowns in the past three games for the Vikings. Stats will always be met with speculation of the situation each player was in, but in the end, Tice’s second point arguing Moss was more impressive was much more profound.
“You’re not going to see the Green Bay Packers put a linebacker over on that side and play over the top of him with a corner like they did with Randy Moss… You’re not going to see that with Justin Jefferson just yet,” Tice said. “Randy Moss changed the game and made the Green Bay Packers… they started drafting taller cornerbacks and bigger players to find some way to slow down Randy Moss.”
Jefferson on Pace to Beat Moss’ Rookie Receiving Yards Record
Since Jefferson’s first start in Week 3, the Vikings rookie has averaged a second-best 96.9 yards per game in the league.
Extrapolating his stats as a starter over the final four games of the season, Jefferson is on pace to finish the season with 78 receptions, 1,426 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, which would break Moss’ rookie receiving yards record with the Vikings.
Bill Groman holds the single-season rookie receiving yards record with 1,473 yards and 12 TDs on 72 receptions in 1960. Jefferson would rank second all-time behind Groman if he can keep rolling.
Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.