Two Vikings Rookie Records that Could be Broken in 2020
The Vikings received widespread praise for their haul in the 2020 NFL Draft. Rick Spielman aced Day 1, landed a lot of upside at positions of need on Day 2, and went on to set a league record with 15 selections in seven rounds.
Each of those picks was made with the future of the organization in mind. Still, many of the Vikings' rookies will play important roles in 2020, even though their first NFL offseason has taken place under unusual circumstances. The Vikings will likely have to lean on quite a few young players after losing a significant amount of talent in March.
With that in mind, here are two franchise rookie records that could be broken this season.
Justin Jefferson – Receptions
Vikings rookie record: 69 (Randy Moss, 1998)
The Vikings' first selection of this year's draft was Jefferson, an extremely skilled and athletic wide receiver prospect from LSU. The No. 22 overall pick will immediately replace Stefon Diggs as a starting receiver for the Vikings in 2020, and he'll have the opportunity to put up some strong numbers in his rookie season.
All three of the Vikings' single-season rookie receiving records belong to Randy Moss, who burst onto the scene in '98 with 69 catches, 1,313 yards, and 17 touchdowns. The latter two are well out of reach for Jefferson, but it's not crazy to think that 70 receptions is within the realm of possibility. He would need to average 4.4 catches per game over a full season to get there.
Jefferson caught 111 passes in 15 games last season while playing out of the slot in Joe Brady's high-octane offense. He's an excellent route-runner with sure hands and the ability to go up and make contested catches, which should quickly make him a trusted option for Kirk Cousins. Jefferson will likely see a lot of snaps from the slot in 2020 and could see a steady volume of targets in the passing game with defenses keying in on Adam Thielen. In 2019, Diggs caught 63 passes in 15 games while serving as the team's deep threat. It's possible that Jefferson could have more receptions than Diggs did, but with a much lower yards per catch average.
Still, 70 catches is a lot. Only six rookie receivers have reached that mark since 2010: Keenan Allen, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Kelvin Benjamin, Amari Cooper, and Michael Thomas. Jefferson has a shot at breaking Moss's record, but it won't be easy.
The Vikings' single-game rookie catches record is nine, set by Sammy White in 1976.
K.J. Osborn – Punt Return Yardage
Vikings rookie record: 247 (Keenan Howry, 2003)
Four rounds after they drafted Jefferson, the Vikings added another receiver. However, Osborn is a longshot to contribute meaningfully as a pass-catcher in 2020, as he's fifth (at best) on the depth chart behind Thielen, Jefferson, Tajae Sharpe, and Bisi Johnson. Where Osborn fits into the puzzle this season is as Minnesota's new punt returner; he's the clear favorite to replace Marcus Sherels in that role.
If Osborn secures that job and holds onto it all season, he'll have a great chance to break the Vikings' rookie record for punt return yardage. It currently stands at just 247 yards and was set by Howry, a seventh-round pick who only lasted three seasons in the NFL.
Sherels didn't start returning punts for the Vikings until his second season, but he surpassed 275 yards in each of the next eight years. A team typically has between 25 and 30 punt returns in a season, which means the average needed to reach 248 is roughly between 8 and 10 yards. Throughout his college career, Osborn averaged 12.1 yards per return, including 15.9 last year at Miami.
The Vikings' rookie record (min. 20 attempts) of 10.1 yards per punt return, set in 1968 by Charlie West, is also very attainable for Osborn. Of course, this is all assuming that he wins the job in training camp over players like Mike Hughes and Bralon Addison.
Receptions and punt return yardage are the only two that seem even remotely realistic. Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler could both potentially start this season, but neither of them is going to break Orlando Thomas's record of nine interceptions as a rookie in 1995. Remember that Anthony Harris tied for the NFL lead with six picks last year.
James Lynch could start at three-tech for the Vikings, but he's not going to break Keith Millard's record of 11.0 sacks (set in 1985). That remains the NFL record for sacks by a rookie defensive tackle, though Ndamukong Suh came close with 10.0 in 2010.
The Vikings' rookie passing records aren't particularly impressive, but let's not even think about a scenario where Nate Stanley is playing enough to break those.
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