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April 30, 2020

Vikings' Justin Jefferson says Eagles, other teams will 'pay' for passing on him in NFL Draft

Philly passed on the LSU wide receiver in favor of TCU's Jalen Reagor

When the Philadelphia Eagles stood pat with the 21st pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the moment seemed to be all lined up for them to take LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who was fresh off a national championship and a monster season and had been mocked to the Eagles by several experts.

As we all know, the Eagles went with Texas Christian University wideout Jalen Reagor instead, opting for a shiftier player with high upside who lacked the college production of Jefferson.

Most analysis of the comparison has centered on the fact that Jefferson seems ideally suited to play in the slot, whereas the Eagles were looking for an outside speed option. How much sense that really makes, especially after Nelson Agholor's exit in free agency, depends on whether you believe Greg Ward Jr. is a suitable slot receiver for the Eagles to lean on in 2020.

Jefferson appeared Thursday on the Zach Gelb Show on CBS Sports Radio, where he discussed his championship season at LSU and his experience in the draft.

"I was surprised that Philadelphia didn't take you, and then you went the pick afterwards," Gelb said. "What was your reaction when Philadelphia didn't take you at 21 and went with Jalen Reagor?"

"Definitely was saying to mom, saying to my brothers, my family, that every single person that picked a receiver instead of me, you know, are gonna' pay," Jefferson said. "I want to show them I'm the better receiver than the pick that they had. So, just like I said, I'm excited that I've been picked to Minnesota, just being put in a great situation with these different guys."

As the fifth wide receiver selected in the draft, that means Jefferson will be looking at the Raiders (Henry Ruggs III), Broncos (Jerry Jeudy), Cowboys (CeeDee Lamb) and Eagles (Reagor) to see if he can outplay their picks.

Evaluating Jefferson and Reagor's careers is going to be an interesting exercise in the seasons to come. The Eagles have a tight-end heavy offense and have always preferred to spread the ball around. Will Reagor see the ball as much as Jefferson, who's now the second option behind Adam Thielen in Minnesota? 

On the other hand, given the health concerns of the Eagles' other wide receivers, Reagor could easily be pushed into the lead role next season if injuries crop up.

Another way to look at it: if Jefferson ends up being the better player, it's not as if the Reagor pick was even the Eagles' most controversial selection in the draft. Fans also will probably compare Reagor more to Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, a player many hoped GM Howie Roseman would trade up to get.

The production of first-round wide receivers can be difficult to project in the NFL. With Reagor in the fold, Eagles fans will just have to be patient before rushing to judgment about whether the team made the right choice.

For what it's worth, Reagor expects to be a game-changing player in Philadelphia and doesn't want to settle for less.