Vikings' Justin Jefferson Among 'Dark-Horse Candidates' in NFL Award Race (2024)

Vikings' Justin Jefferson Among 'Dark-Horse Candidates' in NFL Award Race (1)

Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has gotten off to a historic start in his NFL career: four straight 1,000-yard campaigns in his first four seasons.

This season, though, with what the Vikings hope is at least a more stable situation at quarterback compared to 2023, Jefferson is a “dark-horse candidate” to win NFL MVP on DraftKings, per Bleacher Report’s Brad Gagnon.

The award has never gone to a wide receiver in its history, which has roots back to 1938.

“I’m imagining a scenario in which the NFL’s most talented receiver simply explodes in his prime, possibly at a record-setting tune,” Gagnon wrote on June 26. “And if that happens with Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy splitting up time at quarterback, this far-fetched scenario could lead to a wide receiver winning the MVP award for the first time.”

DraftKings lists Jefferson at +12000 for the award. He is in a four-way tie with quarterbacks Geno Smith and Jayden Daniels and fellow wideout CeeDee Lamb for the 14th-best odds.

Justin Jefferson on Historic Pace

Vikings' Justin Jefferson Among 'Dark-Horse Candidates' in NFL Award Race (3)

GettyJustin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings.

The award has been given to a non-quarterback only 18 times, most recently in 2012, when former Vikings star Adrian Peterson won it.

Peterson is one of just three non-QBs to win the award since the 2000 season. The Vikings have had three winners in franchise history. Peterson is joined by fellow non-QB Alan Page (1971) and QB Fran Tarkenton (1975).

Jefferson overcame injury to post over 1,000 yards in 2023.

“A Week 5 hamstring injury cost him seven games. Yet, he became just the third player in league history to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards playing in 10 or fewer games,”’s Ellis Williams wrote in January. “In another example of excellence, Jefferson became just the fifth player in NFL history to start his career with four straight seasons with 1,000-plus receiving yards, joining Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, A.J. Green and Randy Moss.”

Jefferson has said expressed his confidence in his ability to produce and instead puts the focus on achieving team success.

For all of the personal achievements he has accumulated, he has just one playoff appearance.

Justin Jefferson Needs Consistency from Vikings QBs

Vikings' Justin Jefferson Among 'Dark-Horse Candidates' in NFL Award Race (4)

GettyMinnesota Vikings QBs led by Sam Darnold #14.

The Vikings drafted McCarthy with the No. 10 overall pick of the 2024 Draft. But Vikings’ head coach Kevin O’Connell has expressed faith in Darnold, naming him the starter heading into training camp.

DraftKings lists Darnold at +3000 for Comeback Player of the Year as of June 27.

“I’m not giving up on Darnold, who has had his moments despite few opportunities since the Jets gave up on the 2018 No. 3 overall pick,” Gagnon wrote. “And neither are the Vikings, who may give J.J. McCarthy some serious time to develop. In fact, with plenty of support in that offense, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 27-year-old Darnold excelled as a starter throughout the 2024 campaign.”

Darnold is tied with Kyler Murray – who is coming off an injury-shortened season – for the ninth best odds. Notably, Darnold’s odds might need to be even longer for the award. The Associated Press intends to follow newly-implemented criteria to qualify.

The changes come in the wake of Cleveland Browns QB Joe Flacco’s win last season.

“The spirit of the AP Comeback Player of the Year award is to honor a player who has demonstrated resilience in the face of adversity by overcoming illness, physical injury or other circ*mstances that led him to miss playing time the previous season,” Associated Press senior NFL writer Rob Maaddi said in a since-deleted post on X, per CBS Sports’ Jared Dubin on June 19. “The decision to provide this guidance was made last December but could not be implemented for the 2023 awards because the season was almost completed.”

Darnold is coming off a one-year stint with the San Francisco 49ers as Brock Purdy’s backup. He also closed the 2022 season as the Carolina Panthers’ starter, going 4-2.

Josh Buckhalter covers the NBA and NFL for He has covered both leagues since 2016, including bylines at FanSided, Last Word on Sports and Clocker Sports. He's based in Villa Park, Illinois. Follow Josh on Twitter and Instagram: @JoshGBuck More about Josh Buckhalter

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Vikings' Justin Jefferson Among 'Dark-Horse Candidates' in NFL Award Race (2024)
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