One of our commenters (NM Vike) pointed out this article in our Weekend Open Thread, and it deserves a lot of attention given how prominently the Minnesota Vikings are featured in it.
Sam Robinson at Yardbarker has compiled a list of the top rookie seasons for wide receivers in the history of the National Football League, and there are plenty of members of the purple on the list. In fact, three of the top twelve spots are held by players that wore the purple and gold in their first season in the league.
The first one, checking in at #12, is the man that is being inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame today, Sammy White. Here’s what they had to say about his 1976 Rookie of the Year campaign.
Debuting just before rule changes opened up the passing game, White still shined in a Pro Bowl season to help the Vikings to their fourth Super Bowl. A second-round pick out of Grambling, White tallied 906 receiving yards — fifth in the NFL in 1976 — and added 10 touchdown grabs in Fran Tarkenton’s age-36 season. This included a 210-yard game against the Lions. White then became a central concern for Washington in the playoffs, adding two more TD catches in a Vikings first-round win. Jack Tatum’s vicious hit on White in Super Bowl XI did not dislodge the ball, and the prized rookie scored another touchdown in that game.
That hit by Tatum was just nasty. I’m not sure how White remained conscious after that, let alone continued to play football. I know it was a different era then, but still. . .Damn.
Next up, at #10, is Justin Jefferson’s 2020 season, which is not surprising and might seem just a bit low.
The Vikings and Bills combined on one of the best win-win trades in modern NFL history. Jefferson and Stefon Diggs combined for 2,935 yards in 2020, but Diggs’ replacement getting to an NFL rookie-record 1,400 was more impressive. Obtained with the first-round pick acquired in the Diggs trade, Jefferson completed a rapid ascent after a slow start. The LSU slot dynamo fared well as an outside target in Gary Kubiak’s offense, scoring seven touchdowns and replacing Diggs as Kirk Cousins’ top target. The fourth wideout chosen in a stacked receiver draft, Jefferson narrowly missed Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
“Narrowly missed” is a strange way of saying “got hosed out of,” but we’ll accept it.
And, at #1 overall, we have Laquon Treadwell.
Nah, just kidding. . .it’s Randy Moss’ 1998 season because duh, of course it is.
The gulf between Moss and the field remains wide. Probably the greatest talent to play the position, Moss combined statistical dominance with instant impact. The all-time great made the biggest difference in turning the Vikings from a 9-7 squad to a 15-1 outfit that set the NFL’s single-season scoring record. Moss only produced four 100-yard games — peaking with the legendary 3-163-3 Thanksgiving showcase in Dallas — but the Marshall alum caught a rookie-record 17 TD passes and added two more in the playoffs. Rewarding the Vikings after they stopped his draft slide, Moss became perhaps the toughest coverage assignment in NFL history and moved Cris Carter to WR2 status.
I thought that Percy Harvin might have managed to get onto the list because of what he did in 2009, but his impact on special teams was probably more significant than what he did as a receiver, and his 2009 was overshadowed by Sidney Rice’s 2009 season from a receiving standpoint, so his omission really isn’t that egregious, I guess.
Those are some pretty solid seasons for rookie wideouts, though. Happy to see the Vikings taking up a decent portion of the top half of lists like these when they come out.