For nearly his entire career, Adam Thielen has split targets with Pro-Bowl receiver Stefon Diggs. Nonetheless, Thielen has become a star in the NFL, averaging 90+ receptions and 1000+ receiving yards in at least two seasons. However, last season was a disappointment due to nagging hamstring and late-season ankle injuries. As a result, Thielen, for the first time in three seasons, failed to have more than 60 receptions for 900 receiving yards. As he turns 30, many are expecting more injuries and a subsequent decline, which would diminish his fantasy value. However, I project that the receiver will have a bounce-back season in part due to the Stefon Diggs trade to Buffalo and because I am betting that he will stay healthy. If so, fantasy owners that take the chance on Thielen will reap the rewards with another 70+ reception 900+ receiving yard season.
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Adam Thielen had one of the most disappointing seasons of his career. The 29-year old receiver only played 10 games due to nagging hamstring and ankle injuries. Sadly, in the games that he played, he looked a step slower perhaps fearful of re-injuring his hamstring. Overall, Thielen finished 154th in receptions at 30, 109th in receiving yards at 418, and 24th in touchdowns at 6. His fantasy numbers were just as disappointing as the receiver earned 114.4 fantasy points and 11.4 fantasy points per game. This is a season Thielen will want to forget.
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For 2020, Lineups has Thielen projected to have 73 receptions for 929 receiving yards and six touchdowns. The receiver is expected to produce 205 fantasy points and 12.8 points per game. I agree with these assessments. Thielen has been a possession magnet from 2016-2018, averaging 69, 91, and 113 receptions respectively. The receiver also averages 13.4 yards per reception throughout his career, helping him surpass the 900 reception yard mark. Surprisingly, Thielen tends to find the endzone. While only playing 10 games in 2019, Thielen had six touchdowns. In 2018, Thielen finished with nine touchdowns. I agree with Lineups’ projection that at the minimum he will have six touchdowns in 2020.
I fully expect Thielen to bounce-back in 2020. Before the 2019 season, Thielen had never missed a game his entire career. Durability is not something that I foresee plaguing him for the rest of his career. I also believe that the departure of Stefon Diggs will make Thielen the clear number one wide receiver for the group. Despite Thielen’s production, there were times where he wasn’t the number one receiver and target. While this diminished opposing defense’s schemes against Thielen, it also prevented the number of targets he received. Also, the Vikings were an offense more than happy to run the ball with Dalvin Cook. This year will be different as Thielen is the undisputed number one wide receiver. He will be a focal point of the passing game with the support of a strong supporting cast of Kyle Rudolph, Justing Jefferson, and Tajee Sharpe. Given this strong supporting cast, I doubt opposing defenses will divert their full attention to Thielen.
In 40 healthy games over last three seasons, Adam Thielen ranks among WRs…
* 6th in PPR points per game (16.7)
* 6th in yards per game (79.9)
* 7th in receptions per game (6.1)
* 9th in yards per route run (2.09)
Thielen's early fantasy football average draft position: WR16
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) May 18, 2020
ADP: 31.8 WR: 18
Auction Value: $17
Adam Thielen’s ADP is 31.8 meaning that most fantasy owners expect the receiver to return to his 2016-2018 numbers. At this ADP, owners are expecting the receiver to produce as their WR1 and as a borderline top-ten receiver in the NFL. His auction value is only $17 and he is ranked as the 18th wide receiver on fantasy big boards.
I do not believe that Thielen is being overvalued nor undervalued by fantasy owners. His career year was in 2018 where he put up 113 receptions for 1373 yards and 9 touchdowns. At the age of 30 once the 2020 season starts I do believe that Thielen will begin to do decline. Therefore, I believe that Lineups projection of 70+ receptions for 900+ yards, if healthy, is a great estimate.
I do not have a low floor for Thielen because I fully expect him to bounce back from 2019. While there are a couple of changes to the Vikings including new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and the departure of Stefon Diggs, Thielen is a smart receiver who should easily adapt to these changes. Therefore, I expect a healthy Thielen to average at least 50 receptions for 700 receiving yards.
Thielen does not have a high ceiling given his age and potential for regression. As mentioned earlier, Thielen’s best season came in 2018 where he put up top-five receiver production numbers. While a stable, durable force for many years, I find it hard to believe that a 30-year-old receiver with limited athleticism will be able to top his 2018 numbers. However, many believe that the Stefon Diggs departure will give Thielen the opportunity to increase his targets per game. I agree, believing that Theilen will surpass his 2019 numbers, but that he will not reach his 2018 career-high numbers.
The Vikings offense made some key changes in the 2019 offseason. Most notable was trading away top-15 wide receiver Stefon Diggs to Buffalo in exchange for a 2020 1st round-pick, a 2020 5th and 6th round pick, and a 2021 4th round pick. The team then used that 2020 1st round-pick to draft WR Justin Jefferson, who has the ability to work the outside or become a premier slot receiver in the NFL. On the coaching staff, longtime Vikings coach and 2019 offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski took the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns allowing for Gary Kubiak to take his place as the new Vikings offensive coordinator.
These changes could either help or hinder Thielen’s productivity. I fully expect the offense to remain run-heavy, leaning on Dalvin Cook and their zone-blocking scheme to lead the way. I believe that Thielen will benefit from more targets with the departure of Stefon Diggs. However, he will also benefit from a solid receiving core and tight end group which will limit defenses ability to double team Thielen.
Strength of Schedule
Despite playing the Bears twice, the Vikings will go up against mediocre pass defenses the entire season. These games include matchups against the entire AFC South, and NFC South teams Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta. Thielen will have plenty of opportunities to make up for his disappointing 2019 season.
Overall, with an ADP of 31.8, I believe Thielen is a solid pickup as a late WR1 or WR2 option. With this pick, you are getting a red zone target, which will help in non-PPR leagues and a guy that can provide consistent value every week. I think the potential for regression is there, but a couple of seasons away from having a detrimental impact on his production. If fantasy owners make the secure pick with Adam Thielen, they could open themselves to drafting more risky players in future rounds.
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