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'Look at the numbers': Lions host claims Amon-Ra St. Brown is ahead of Justin Jefferson

"Like, this Justin Jefferson that you all love and worship, [Amon-Ra St. Brown is] further along at this point in his career."

The NFL offseason hasn't even officially begun and already we're reaching peak 'offseason takes' season.

Neal Ruhl of Woodward Sports Network had the hot take Monday that Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is "further ahead of almost any wide receiver ever" including Justin Jefferson, at this point in his career. 

"Amon-Ra St. Brown at this point in his career is further ahead of almost any wide receiver ever. Ever," Ruhl said. "Like, this Justin Jefferson that you all love and worship, he's further along at this point in his career. Look at the numbers."

For the uninitiated, Woodward Sports Network is a digital sports media brand covering Detroit sports. They have 94,000 followers on X and 62,000 subscribers on YouTube.

When actually looking at the numbers, you can clearly see how Jefferson dwarfs St. Brown in pretty much every category through their respective first three years in the league.  

Comparison of Justin Jefferson and Amon-Ra St. Brown's first three NFL seasons

Comparison of Justin Jefferson and Amon-Ra St. Brown's first three NFL seasons

It's, uh, not even close. Jefferson had 1,237 more yards than St. Brown at the conclusion of their respective third seasons. Jefferson's 96.5 yards per game is far superior to St. Brown's 73.2 per game.

In fact Jefferson broke records for his first three seasons. Records that belonged to Odell Beckham Jr. and Randy Moss. Jefferson's 324 receptions, 4,825 yards and 96.5 yards per game are the most in NFL history by anyone over the first three seasons of their career.

Now that we've established that the baseline stats aren't close, what about the awards? Jefferson was a three-time Pro Bowler and earned one first team All-Pro honor and two second team All-Pro honors. St. Brown has two Pro Bowl invites and one first team All-Pro.

Again, not close – and we didn't even mention Jefferson's Offensive Player of the Year award after his third season – a season in which he was also a finalist for the league MVP trophy. 

Justin Jefferson

Justin Jefferson during a game against the Lions at Ford Field in Detroit.

Ruhl continued when his co-host tried to push back against the hot take. 

"Amon-Ra St. Brown gets overlooked because he doesn't catch the 60-yard deep ball," Ruhl lobbied. "That's why. That's the only reason why. It's not that he's an inferior receiver. He is not. It's the nature of his game and the nature of what he's asked to do in the offense. And he does it as good as anybody in the National Football League. I'll back that up. Could Justin Jefferson do Amon-Ra St. Brown's role as well as Amon-Ra St. Brown?"

So the ONLY reason St. Brown doesn't have as many yards is because the Lions don't throw deep as often? And Jefferson couldn't dominate running shorter routes like St. Brown? 

Let's investigate and compare their numbers after three seasons in the league. 

  • Yards per reception: Jefferson 14.9 | St. Brown 11.4
  • Average depth of target: Jefferson 12.0 | St. Brown 7.3

Below are the comparisons of the receiving depth numbers from each of the first three seasons of both receivers, according to PFF.

DoR Comparison Rookie
DoR Comparison Y2
DoR Comparison Y3

The numbers do agree with Ruhl that Jefferson is asked to run much deeper routes on average than St. Brown. Where Ruhl is possibly wrong is in his belief that Jefferson couldn't play the short game as well as St. Brown. 

While Jefferson grades out worse in the short game than St. Brown, his yards-per-reception on short passes (0-9 yards) are nearly identical to St. Brown.

  • Jefferson: 138 receptions 1,198 yards 8.68 yards/reception
  • St. Brown: 204 receptions 1,813 yards 8.88 yards/reception

While St. Brown outpaces Jefferson when it comes to receptions behind the line of scrimmage (6.33 yards/reception to 4.95), saying the Minnesota receiver couldn't fulfill the short game role is wrong. Remember, one of the concerns about Jefferson coming out of college was if he could play on the outside after dominating as a slot receiver at LSU. 

In his breakout 2018 season at LSU, Jefferson caught 18 passes behind the line of scrimmage and averaged 7.5 yards per catch. In the short game (0-9 yards), Jefferson averaged 8.7 yards per reception on 53 catches, and in the medium-range game (10-19 yards), he averaged a whopping 20.3 yards per reception on 31 catches. 

Jefferson just hasn't been asked to play a role like St. Brown at the NFL level. But history suggests that he would be very, very good at it if asked to play such a role. 

St. Brown is a great player but to put him above Jefferson is wildly aggressive.