Adam Thielen Disregarded in One Major Area by NFL Brains

Aug 27, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) on the sidelines during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Thielen is rather unpopular in a very prominent football arena leading up to the 2022 session — fantasy football.

In the last two seasons, despite missing 15% of all Minnesota Vikings football games, Thielen ranks third in the NFL in receiving touchdowns. Must be a major indicator for fantasy football managers, right?

Wrong.

According to ESPN, Thielen is ‘WR38’ among all NFL receivers heading into late-summer fantasy drafts, a head-scratching position as the Vikings spent the offseason hiring an offense-first coaching staff. For those unfamiliar with fantasy football, the ESPN ranking means that fantasy brains perceive 37 better WRs than Thielen on tap for the 2022 season.

Image from ESPN.com

Indeed, Thielen is bedfellows with DeVonta Smith from the Philadelphia Eagles and rookie Treylon Burks from the Tennessee Titans.

And even stranger, no one seems to have a reasonable explanation for Thielen’s curiously low stock. Thielen will be 32 in August, so it’s not like his 2022 outlook is totally geriatric. Still, his fantasy forecast across the board is lower than folks — particularly Vikings fans — would expect.

Thielen also isn’t taking a demotion. Once again in Minnesota, he’ll snatch the franchise’s WR2 duties behind Justin Jefferson but remains firmly ahead of K.J. Osborn, who blossomed as WR3 in 2021. In fairness to fantasy heads, Thielen hasn’t accrued 1,000+ receiving yards in a season since 2018. Yet, when Thielen’s yardage production slowed for unknown reasons, his redzone exposure and subsequent touchdowns spiked — almost like a seesaw.

Since the start of 2020, Thielen has caught a touchdown in 55% of Vikings games and 64% of games in which he personally played. His 18 games with a touchdown-scored rank third in the NFL since 2020 behind Davante Adams (19) and Mike Evans (19).

Adam Thielen
Jul 30, 2021; Eagan, MN, United States; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

And in those two seasons, Thielen ranks 12th in the NFL in PPR fantasy points among all WRs. Ergo, the historical clip of 12th-best leaguewide directly clashes with the ‘WR38’ stock detailed by ESPN.

Thielen isn’t a receiving-yards merchant like in 2017 or 2018, but his knack for scoring has increased over the last three years.

The Minnesota State alumnus has played more games for the Vikings in his career than Chuck Foreman, Ahmad Rashad, Randy Moss, Robert Smith, and Gary Zimmerman.

Thielen’s presence on the 2022 roster will be his first Vikings experience without Mike Zimmer at the helm.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).


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