Both in the real world and the fantasy football realm, it feels like Vikings receiver Adam Thielen is being forgotten about a little bit. I suppose that's natural after he missed half of last season with a hamstring injury and because the move from Stefon Diggs to Justin Jefferson at Minnesota's other WR spot has dominated discussions this offseason.
But that shouldn't be the case. Thielen will be back healthy this year – he had previously never missed a game in his first five seasons – and is primed for a huge year as the unquestioned No. 1 receiver for the Vikings.
"It’s cliché to say it at this time of year but it’s the truth, I feel better than I’ve ever felt," Thielen said on a recent Zoom call with reporters. "I think it has a lot to do with what I was able to learn from last year."
Rewind past 2019 and you'll recall that Thielen emerged as an elite receiver during the two previous seasons. He put up a 91-1276-4 line in 2017 and then surpassed all of those totals with a 113-1373-9 line in 2018, including a record-breaking eight straight 100-yard games to start the year. Over that two-year span, he was fourth in the NFL in receptions and sixth in receiving yards, and he was just 14 yards away from being fourth in that category as well.
Granted, that was before the Vikings transitioned to Gary Kubiak's run-heavy offense in 2019. But let's not forget that Thielen still recorded seven total touchdowns in seven games before getting hurt, including a 7-130-2 performance against the Giants last Week 5.
Thielen's route-running, size, and unbelievable catch radius will be back in full force in 2020. He's now two years of experience working with Kirk Cousins, and the duo are friends off the field as well. Expect Cousins to look his way frequently and for Thielen to get a lot of targets in the red zone as well. It's also possible that he will be used more frequently as a deep threat now that Diggs is gone.
Speaking of Diggs, there are those that are worried that Thielen won't be able to produce at an elite level without having another top-tier receiver for defenses to focus on. I think that sentiment is overblown, even if there's some validity to it. The Vikings added a pretty exciting Diggs replacement in Jefferson, and also have Irv Smith Jr. and Kyle Rudolph for opposing secondaries to worry about, not to mention the constant threat of Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison in the running game.
Thielen and Jefferson are likely to move around the formation enough that it will be difficult for teams to regularly double-team Thielen. And even if he does get extra defensive attention, he's still good enough to beat it and get open.
“I think it’s very similar to what Diggs and I’s role was," Thielen said of where he and Jefferson will align. "They could kind of move us around anywhere. We felt comfortable wherever they put us, and it just provides an opportunity for them to see what we’re really good at and to be able to put us there in those situations."
Thielen will be a high-floor fantasy option because of his status as Cousins' top option, and his week-to-week ceiling will be fairly high because of his touchdown potential.
According to SI fantasy analyst Corey Parson, Thielen is currently going as the No. 16 receiver in fantasy drafts. Parson believes that's the correct value for him.
"A lot of people think that having Stefon Diggs on that roster with him, lining up on the other side of him, played a big key in [Thielen] developing into that role," Parson said. "I don't know if he's any longer a wide receiver 1. I think the addition of Justin Jefferson is going to be important to that team, I think Kirk Cousins is a guy who can be an MVP candidate this year, so he's in a good spot. But wide receiver 16 seems to be about right, I don't think he finishes inside the top 12 but I do think he's a worthy fantasy asset, especially as a wide receiver 2."
I tend to disagree slightly. I think Thielen's target volume and scoring potential should make him a low-end WR1 for your fantasy team. Thielen was the overall WR11 in standard scoring in 2017 and the WR7 in 2018. I think he can get back to that top 10-12 range this year.
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