Why Adam Thielen Will Have a Big Season in 2022

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 slander seems to be at an all-time high, and I’m not having it.

Is Thielen going to be as good this season as when he was at the peak of his powers in 2017/18? Probably not. But the way some folks have been talking about his “decline,” you would think he had lost the ability to run and catch a ball.

He is still a talented player who has plenty of tread left on the tires. This is why I am telling you to look out for a big season from Adam Thielen.

Nov 16, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Last season Thielen played in 13 games, catching 67 of 95 targets for 726 yards and 10 touchdowns. That doesn’t tell the full story. Nearly all of that stat line came in the first 11 games. He injured his ankle early in game 12 against the Detroit Lions without adding to his yards tally. Thielen would miss the next two games before returning against the  Los Angeles Rams in Week 16. He battled through injury to catch all three of his targets for 40 yards, but that was the end of his season. The ankle injury was aggravated, and Thielen went onto injured reserve after having surgery on his left ankle. 

Before the injury, Thielen looked on course for his third season of 1000 yards. I can’t get on board with talk of a decline. Coming into the season at 32 years old, he is bound to slow up somewhat, but Thielen has the skillset to play into his 30s without his game suddenly falling off a cliff. His route running is still better than most wide receivers can ever dream of, so he will continue to have success. There aren’t many, if any, at all proven second wide receivers who are better than Adam Thielen. There is certainly no one I would be willing to swap him for.

Of course, there are the injuries, which have been a recurring theme over the last three years. Once a player is into his 30s and has a history of injuries building up, there is automatically fear of the injury problems getting worse. All we can do on the outside is speculate and hope. Suppose Adam Thielen can stay healthy and play in all 17 regular-season games. I see no reason he won’t be going over 1,000 receiving yards in a season again.

Adam Thielen
Sep 13, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

After all, despite the emergence of K.J. Osborn, the late showing in his rookie season of Ihmir Smith-Marsette, as well as the return of Irv Smith, and the possibility of Dalvin Cook being used more heavily in the passing game, Adam Thielen is still the Minnesota Vikings second-biggest receiving threat — behind only Justin Jefferson who will lead the offense and look to have another monster season. Once down in the red zone, it can be argued he is the number one threat and preferred target of quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The rapport and chemistry built between receiver and quarterback over four seasons equated to 24 touchdown catches for Thielen over the last two years. He is the favorite target for Cousins down the business end of the field, and I don’t see that changing.

The Vikings offense might be more balanced under the guidance of Kevin O’Connell, but when under pressure and in crucial situations, I expect Thielen to still be at the forefront of Kirk Cousins’ mind.

Pro Football Focus released their 2022 wide receiver rankings and had Thielen in the right place. Putting him in tier 3: former tier 1 veterans eyeing a bounce-back/getting healthy. Ranking him 19th over. Here is what Anthony Treash of PFF had to say about Thielen:

“Thielen has already endured several up-and-down swings throughout his NFL career and will be eyeing another bounce-back in 2022. The Minnesota Viking was a top-five-graded wide receiver in 2018, but injury played a part in a double-digit grading swing downward in 2019 after his limited time on the field. Thielen came back to form in 2020 with the sixth-highest PFF grade but took another tumble in grading in 2021, some of which can be attributed to injury down the stretch. When Thielen is healthy, his advanced route running makes him a clear Tier 1 player.”

Pro Football Focus

Treash has hit the nail on the head. The only thing that has slowed Thielen down is injury, and when healthy, he still belongs in the top echelons of NFL wide receivers. Playing under an offensive head coach for the first time in his career could also give him a new lease on life. When you see videos of Thielen training with his younger position teammates, you see a guy who fits in, jokes around, looks as smooth across the ground as ever, and looks to have plenty left in the tank — far from a grizzled old veteran who is on the decline.

This is why I am telling you now. Look out for a big season from Adam Thielen.