In the words of hall of famer Cris Carter, Justin Jefferson will be the Minnesota Vikings’ “next great” wide receiver.
The former Vikings star receiver tweeted that after the LSU stalwart went No. 22 to Minnesota on Thursday night, April 23, in the first round of the NFL draft. And Carter has done his research to form such an opinion.
Carter worked with Jefferson closely at the NFL scouting combine in February in Indianapolis. And Carter kept tabs on him throughout the draft process.
“He was giving me tips (at the combine) on how to be a better receiver, how to be a long-term better receiver,” Jefferson said Friday in a video conference call. “Having him in my ear, just giving me his knowledge and the information that he has definitely means a lot. He’s a hall of fame receiver. … He said I was the best receiver in the draft, so we definitely have a connection.”
Jefferson was the fifth receiver taken in the draft, behind Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy of Alabama, CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma and Jalen Reagor of Texas Christian. Jefferson said he had heard Carter call him the top receiver in the draft on television, and he was flattered.
“Hearing him say that about me definitely made me feel good about myself and had me a little more confident about myself,” Jefferson said. “He was one of my mentors, with one of our groups, so (it helped) having him around every step of the way during the combine.”
However, it must be said that Carter, who played for the Vikings from 1990-2001, also took Laquon Treadwell under his wing before and after he was taken by the Vikings with the No. 23 pick in the 2016 draft. And that didn’t turn out too well.
After Treadwell was drafted, Carter tweeted that “Vikings fans will be happy” with the pick. He also tweeted a picture of the two together. He included a picture of a trophy under it and wrote that Treadwell was going to “help bring us” a Super Bowl win “finally.”
Treadwell finished his four disappointing seasons with the Vikings, from 2016-19, with all of 65 receptions. Jefferson caught nearly twice that many passes last season alone for LSU, hauling in 111 for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns from Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow for the national champion Tigers.
“We were very excited to get Jefferson because I know he … has a chance to be a pretty impactful rookie,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said.
Jefferson said he has talked to Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf. He also has heard from quarterback Kirk Cousins and fellow receiver Adam Thielen.
“I just want to say ‘thank you’ for everybody that is showing me love for going to the Vikings,” Jefferson said. “I’m definitely excited to go into Minnesota and see what we have on the team and work with the guys.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, it is uncertain when he will arrive. The St. Rose, La., native said he has never been to Minnesota — and he has only seen snow three times in his life. He joked that he tries “to stay far away from” the cold but is ready to get used to it now.
Where Jefferson settles in on the football field remains to be seen. It would be a surprise if he doesn’t emerge as the replacement for starter Stefon Diggs, who was traded last month to Buffalo.
Jefferson was an outside receiver until moving to the slot last season, and said he can help the Vikings at either spot. Jefferson, who provides speed and the ability to make catches in traffic, said moving inside last year boosted his draft stock.
“It helped me become a smarter player, just having to learn the different defenses, having to learn routes, having to know what coverage the defense is in,” he said.
Jefferson fell to Minnesota after Philadelphia made Reagor their surprising pick at No. 21. TCU coach Gary Patterson, who had conversations with Eagles coach Doug Pederson, said one reason they took Reagor over Jefferson is because he also provides a special teams dimension. Reagor averaged 20.8 yards on punt returns last season for the Horned Frogs.