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How Justin Jefferson trade ‘buzz’ at NFL draft nearly had major Giants impact

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There was at least one scenario in the 2024 NFL Draft where wide receiver Malik Nabers didn’t end up going to the Giants at No. 6 — and where All-Pro wideout Justin Jefferson was dealt to another team.

The “buzz” surrounding the Vikings last month was that they could move up six spots to No. 5 overall, select Nabers, trade Jefferson and completely reshape that position on their depth chart with another LSU receiver, according to the Pioneer Press and ProFootballTalk.

“Pssst,” an article from the Pioneer Press stated. “There was buzz at draft time that the Vikings wanted to move from No. 11 to No. 5, not to pick a quarterback but to get LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers, who was picked No. 6 by the Giants. Had that trade occurred, Jefferson would have been traded and Nabers would have been the No. 1 receiver.”

Justin Jefferson will enter the 2024 season as the Vikings’ No. 1 receiver. AP
Malik Nabers was selected by the Giants at No. 6 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft. Noah K. Murray for the NY Post

Instead, the Vikings moved up one spot to No. 10, selected Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy and will eventually need to figure out how to navigate looming negotiations with Jefferson — who will become an unrestricted free agent following the 2024 season, which, as of now, he’ll play using the fifth-year option of his rookie deal.

And when the Chargers snagged offensive lineman Joe Alt at No. 5, that allowed general manager Joe Schoen and the Giants to take Nabers one pick later, adding a No. 1 receiver for quarterback Daniel Jones and bolstering a position that included Darius Slayton, Jalin Hyatt and Wan’Dale Robinson.

Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah told reporters in February he hadn’t considered trading Jefferson, adding that the Vikings consider him as “one of the best non-quarterbacks in the league” and that it’d be reflected in his next deal.

Earlier this month, head coach Kevin O’Connell said on “Up & Adams” that he knows “everything’s going to get worked out there,” according to NFL.com.

Still, the Vikings are facing the reality that they’d need to figure out a long-term deal — one with a salary well beyond his $19.743 million for 2024 — with Jefferson at some point soon.

Jefferson, the No. 22 overall pick in 2020, topped 1,000 yards for the fourth consecutive year in 2023, catching five touchdowns and 68 passes in 10 games one season after leading the league with 128 receptions and 1,809 yards.

Those numbers in 2023 occurred amid quarterback turmoil in Minnesota, too, with Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall all taking snaps at quarterback after Kirk Cousins — who has since signed with the Falcons — tore his Achilles.

So after the NFL draft’s first round ended, the Vikings had their quarterback of the future, the Giants had their wide receiver of the future and both franchises filled their most pressing need.

Justin Jefferson collected over 1,000 for a fourth consecutive season in 2023. Getty Images

“I have that little Spider-Man talent,’’ Nabers told reporters last month. “When I feel somebody on the field, I know how close out-of-bounds is. I just know how to react to the ball, late, late hands, understanding where the defender can be on my route.’’

But Schoen and the Giants could’ve also faced an entirely different scenario, where they needed to pivot to another top wideout — or something else altogether — with their first-round pick.




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