Does Detroit Have a Receiver on Par with Justin Jefferson?

Does Detroit Have a Receiver on Par with Justin Jefferson?

Sep 18, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) is tackled by Washington Commanders cornerback Kendall Fuller (29) during second half action at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirthmon F. Dozier-USA TODAY Sports

Amon-Ra St. Brown is a great player, but most people would (rightly) tell you that Justin Jefferson is the best receiver in the NFC North.

Nevertheless, if we simply isolated the PFF grades, we’d say that Detroit not only has a receiver on par with #18, but one who is actually better than Jefferson.

First, some background.

St. Brown is 23-years-old and is in his second season in the NFL. As a rookie, he put up some strong numbers: 90 catches, 912 yards, and 5 TDs. Perhaps the main memory Vikings fans have of the young WR is when he got the game-winning touchdown in last season’s game against Minnesota.

For an encore, Amon-Ra St. Brown has been improving on his rookie numbers. Take a look at some of the notable stats after only 11 games:

  • 76 catches
  • 830 yards
  • 6 TDs
  • 10.9 yards per reception

In Week 3, the Vikings took down the Lions. Amon-Ra St. Brown had a pretty strong game: 6 catches for 73 yards. Not dominant, but certainly respectable.

St. Brown, in short, is an excellent receiver.

Given the impending return of Jameson Williams, there’s good reason to believe that Detroit could have the division’s best receiver tandem in a year or two. The little bit I’ve seen of St. Brown suggests he’s on his way to being elite. His route running is crisp and he demonstrates great compete. Detroit did well to get him in the 4th round.

Nevertheless, it’d be a touch premature to put him on par with Jefferson. The PFF grade is impressive, and yet the reality is that Minnesota’s WR1 is still the top option in the NFC North. A quick refresher on some of the notable numbers for Jefferson in 2022:

  • 88 catches
  • 1277 yards
  • 6 TDs
  • 14.5 yards per reception

Part of the reason why the PFF grades are so close is because of St. Brown’s ability as a run blocker. He gets a healthy 79.5 grade in that facet of the game whereas Jefferson’s grade is a touch more modest: 63.6. Their receiving grades – St. Brown is at 90.3 and Jefferson at 89.1 – are considerably closer.

St. Brown actually has more snaps in the slot than out wide. He has 289 in the slot and 252 out wide. Jefferson, in contrast, has 584 out wide and only 181 in the slot. One wonders if the differences in alignment contribute to the grades.

Unless something truly unusual happens, Jefferson will be a first-team All Pro at the end of the season. His elite production alongside his team’s success makes it a strong chance. Forced to guess, I’d say Amon-Ra St. Brown gets some consideration but won’t be able to overcome some of the others. Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, A.J. Brown, and, indeed, Jefferson have all been playing very well.

As most Vikings fans know by now, snagging a win on Sunday would clinch the division for Minnesota. The team is 3-0 against the NFC North in 2022, a major part of the reason why the Vikings are so close to the division crown. Pushing that record 4-0 would be a welcome development for Minnesota fans.

The game is scheduled to begin at 12 CST at Ford Field.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and PFF helped with this piece.

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