With his NFL future in the balance one year ago, Justin Jefferson waited with bated breath to see which team would select him in the first round. He'd slide down the board more than he would've expected, aided by Henry Ruggs, III, Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb going off of the board in the top 20, and so arrived the 21st overall pick -- owned by the WR-starved Philadelphia Eagles. This most certainly had to be when Jefferson's phone would ring, yes? Well it did but, surprisingly enough, it wasn't the Eagles.
It was the Minnesota Vikings readying him to be selected with the 22nd overall pick, as the Eagles put in their bid for Jalen Reagor instead. The decision in Philadelphia to both fail to trade up to take Lamb away from the Dallas Cowboys and subsequently to pass on Jefferson for Reagor was eviscerated by media and their fan faithful alike, but Jefferson could not be more ecstatic at their mistake.
"Leading up to the draft, you know, they had all of those mock drafts and people sharing their opinions on who is going to go where," Jefferson said in an interview with GQ Magazine. "A lot of people had me going to Philly. And, I thought I was going to Philly, honestly. The funny part is, Philly was on the board and then Minnesota called me.
"At first, I thought it was Philly, but I answered the phone and it was Minnesota. It's crazy how all of that happened and everything, but, I'm definitely, definitely, definitely excited that I'm on the Vikings rather than Philly."
The rookie outings of Jefferson and Reagor were nowhere near comparable by any measure, with the former bursting out of that gate with 1,400 receiving yards and seven touchdowns while the latter delivered only 396 receiving yards and one visit to the end zone in 11 games played.
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Granted, the quality of quarterback play was also key in the success of Jefferson and the lack thereof by Reagor -- Carson Wentz eventually benched for former second-round pick Jalen Hurts -- but they were not viewed as equals ahead of last year's draft and that played out on the field in 2020. And in 2021, even with Wentz shipped away to the Indianapolis Colts, making for an extended nightmare if you're a receiver on their roster who's trying to find some consistency to build upon. That said, even on Reagor's best day, he didn't mirror what Jefferson was doing in Minnesota
Reagor's season high amounted to 55 receiving yards. Jefferson's best performance was exponentially better, having delivered a 175-yard explosion in Week 3 against the Tennessee Titans -- one of his seven 100-yard games in Year 1. Needless to say, things are working out very well for Jefferson as he enters Year 2 in the NFL, while the Eagles find themselves again in dire need at the position ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft. And as for sending Philly a message whenever he suits up against them, Jefferson says while he "treats every game the same," he's also human.
"Philly will definitely be edgier. You know, especially because they passed on me."
And he's ... *checks notes* ... definitely, definitely, definitely excited they did.