Okay, so not to bury the lead, but there is no substitute for Justin Jefferson lurking on the Minnesota roster. In fact, there is no substitute for Justin Jefferson on any roster in the NFL. He was the top player selected in most drafts this year for a reason. Unreplaceable talent.
With that all being said, the man isn’t gone forever. He may be gone for a month, maybe a little longer, but it shouldn’t be season-ending unless he decides not to come back. So, really, our goal here cannot be to replace JJ. Our goal has to be to survive without him long enough that you have him back for the playoff run. If you happen to be in the 90+ percent of fantasy owners who did not have a chance to roster JJ, that’s fine. There’s still value to vulture here.
The first place to look when you lose a player is to the same team that player was on. There is a hole on that team that needs to be filled. First, if you are 5-0 and can grab JJ cheaply from a panicked owner, do it! Obviously, he could be a league winner during the stretch run. Beyond JJ, most players likely to gain value are already owned in most leagues. If you are in a position to trade for one of them, go ahead, but just remember to temper expectations.
THE VIKINGS’ TARGET TOTEM POLE
Jefferson has accounted for 53 out of 199 targets in Minnesota (just under 27%). The first thing to remember is that this won’t just be an even swap. There’s a good chance that some of that target share gets lost because the Vikings may stall out more on some drives with no Jefferson. There is also a good chance that some of those targets become runs for the RBs instead. Cam Akers seems more explosive than Alexander Mattison, so he’d be my target of the two RBs if you want to take a flyer there.
Otherwise, I’d say that we probably have roughly 18-20% of the previous targets to distribute for the next month. This ends up being about seven to eight targets per game. There’s value to be had here, even if no one player gets a crazy upgrade.
Based on usage from this past week and common sense, I would expect three or more of these extra targets to go to TJ Hockenson. Hock has taken on the alpha role in games for Minnesota before. However, if you don’t already have Hockenson, you aren’t likely getting him now anyway so that does you no good. However, what happens with the other four targets per game is what we’re most interested in.
Two realistic options will happen with the rest of the targets. First, they split them between Jordan Addison and KJ Osborn. That option kind of sucks for us, to be honest, because it doesn’t move the needle much. The other option is that one of the two gets the majority (i.e. three or more) of the remaining targets. Let’s see what that looks like.
TARGET KJ OSBORN
There is a possibility that KJ Osborn gets the majority of the non-Hock targets. According to the Athletic, he is expected to take on the open X role. This would be the worst-case scenario because we’ve already seen what Osborn does. He’s a decent player and, with more volume, he’s probably a solid WR3 most weeks. But, looking deeper, he’s balled out when given the chance, aka garnered six-plus targets.
The Jefferson upside is borderline impossible to replace off the waiver wire unless you landed Puka Nacua back in Week 2. Still, Osborn isn’t going to win anyone a week because the upside is capped, but if he can replicate a healthy target share alongside Jordan Addison and TJ Hockenson, then he could give you what you need.
REJOICE, JORDAN ADDISON OWNERS
This is the option that seems the most juicy. Outside of the one game in Week 4 when Addison disappeared, he has had six, five, eight, and nine targets, respectively, in the other games. In terms of how that compares to Osborn, they’ve had similar target shares, but Osborn’s targets are a bit more spread out.
With this schedule, the big thing here is the upside. Addison was a first-round draft pick this year for the Vikings and has shown well this season. In fact, he has been the most productive 1st round WR from this draft so far. Particularly of note is that Addison has shown a propensity to get in the end zone with three already this season. Basically, we’re hoping for the opportunity to meet the talent on this one. With three more targets per game, Addison becomes a high-end WR2.
Okay, so nut-cutting time. We’ve looked at all of the likely scenarios, so what do we actually do?
Hold Justin Jefferson if you have him and a solid record (3-2 or better). Sell JJ if you need immediate help and can get a reasonable haul for him. Buy JJ if you have a great record (4-1 or 5-0) and can get him without giving up substantial pieces.
Trade for Hockenson if you can, but you probably can’t because anyone who has him knows he’s in play for being the overall TE1 over the next month.
Pick up Osborn for steady but unspectacular production. This is like the Joshua Palmer vs Quentin Johnston debate from a few weeks ago. Palmer is the steady producer, and Johnston is the upside stash. In this case, Osborn should be steady but has limited upside. You can ignore him on waivers if you don’t need immediate help. Otherwise, you can throw him in the flex or on the bench.
Trade for Addison. I was interested in Addison before this injury, but now I’m all in. It may take a week or two for the Vikings to be willing to shift more targets to Addison than Osborn, but you almost always have to swing for the fences in fantasy football. Addison is the power move and well worth going after. If JJ does end up missing beyond the minimum four weeks, you may get a top 15-20 type guy in Addison for the long haul. There is risk in trading for him, so don’t go too crazy, but this is a player you want if you’re looking for upside.