11 Options for Vikings to Replace Adam Thielen

5 Vikings Have Not Met
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The Minnesota Vikings parted ways with their longtime star receiver Adam Thielen after he spent ten years with the organization. He started in rookie tryouts and clinched a practice squad spot in 2013 before he made his way onto the field one year later, primarily as a special teams ace.

He did all of this for his childhood team, hunting for records set by his idols Cris Carter and Randy Moss, but he wasn’t just a feel-good story, as he became one of the premier receivers in the NFL. Thielen’s big breakout campaign came in 2016.

The receiver nearly cracked the 1,000-yard mark and caught five touchdowns. He followed that up by recording 2,649 yards in the next couple of seasons. The Minnesota native was slowed down by injuries in the following three campaigns but became one of the elite red zone targets.

10 Options for Vikings to Replace Adam Thielen
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However, losing a step in 2022, Thielen declined too much to justify a huge contract with a devastating cap hit. Minnesota needed to free up some cap space, and Eric Kendricks and Thielen are the two prominent names who will no longer dress in purple.

Thielen finished his Vikings career with 57 total touchdowns and 6,682 receiving yards on 534 receptions. He ranks fourth in receiving yards and third in receiving touchdowns in Vikings history.

11 Options for Vikings to Replace Adam Thielen

The Vikings need to replace their veteran with a different wideout opposite of Justin Jefferson, who can take advantage of defenses throwing double teams at the star. In 2022, they clearly lacked another secondary weapon on the outside. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell could find that player in the draft or free agency.

Odell Beckham Jr.

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The superstar wideout struggled with injuries in the last few years, but he has been an electric receiver whenever he stepped onto the field. His last game came in the Super Bowl 13 months ago when he was the second option in McVay’s Rams offense. One reason why OBJ could be interesting for the Vikings — head coach Kevin O’Connell was the offensive coordinator in Los Angeles during that season. Beckham Jr. was a wonderful second option to Cooper Kupp, his role in Minnesota would look identical when he lines up on the opposite side of Jefferson. His injuries are a risk, but he has enormous upside.

Michael Thomas

Thomas is a similar case. Thomas only played ten games for the Saints in the last three seasons. However, in the four previous years, Thomas cracked the 1,000-yard mark and was arguably the league’s top wideout in 2019 when he led the NFL in receptions while setting an all-time record with 149 catches and yards. Thomas’ ability to line up in the slot and outside could increase the flexibility of the offense. Comparable to Beckham Jr., Thomas has WR1 potential for the cost of a WR2.

D.J. Chark

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Chark started his career as a second-round pick in Jacksonville. In his second season in 2019, Chark recorded his only 1,000-yard season. He doesn’t offer the same upside as Thomas and Beckham Jr., but his speed would be a perfect fit in the Vikings’ offense. Chark can beat defenses deep, and the Vikings haven’t had a true speedster in quite some time. The wideout is 26 years old and should have plenty left in the tank. He spent the 2022 campaign in Detroit, and in Week 14, Chark had 94 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings.

Mecole Hardman

Hardman is the obvious choice if the Vikings want to add the fastest available receiver. He played in Patrick Mahomes’ high-octane offense in Kansas City and offers track-star speed to take the top off defenses and hurt them with jet sweeps. O’Connell can get creative with him in the building. He is a perfect fit for Minnesota’s offense and could have his breakout year as a receiver. However, the Vikings have to pay for his potential and not production.

Robert Woods

Like Beckham Jr., Woods played under head coach Kevin O’Connell during his time as Rams offensive coordinator. Woods tore his ACL in the middle of the 2021 season and missed the Super Bowl run. However, he has been one of the most underrated players in the league for almost a decade. He may no longer be in his prime, but he can give the Vikings one or two productive seasons. The Titans recently released him, and he might be the cheapest option on the list.

Zay Flowers

Another WR to Circle
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The Boston College wideout is one of the top receivers in the draft, and his name is often connected to the Vikings in various mock drafts. He showed off at the combine with a great 4.42 40-yard dash, including an excellent 1.53 10-yard split. Flowers is dangerous in the open field, and he knows how to use his speed. The draft prospect had 1,077 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns in his senior season. Throughout his career, Flowers recorded over 3,000 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns through the air. He would cost the Vikings a first-round pick.

Jordan Addison

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Another player in the 2023 draft class, USC wideout Addison didn’t have a great combine but is one of the best technicians. His route running is flawless, and he can play inside and outside. He’s a relatively small receiver with good quickness and is often compared to Seahawks wideout Tyler Lockett. In 2021, Addison had an unbelievable 1,593 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns in Pittsburgh with Kenny Pickett at QB before transferring to USC, where his production declined. Addison is a type of receiver the Vikings don’t have on the team.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Smith-Njigba is one of the more controversial players in the draft class. Some folks suggest that he is a mid-round pick, while others believe he is the next great Ohio State receiver after last year’s class featured Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. In 2021, JSN had more receiving yards than both of them when they played on the same team and looked absolutely phenomenal. Nevertheless, it can’t be ruled out that he was so good because he played with the other two players. In 2022, Smith-Njigba struggled with injuries and only managed to catch five passes for 43 yards in three games. Only time will tell if he was a product of his surroundings or a true superstar.

DeAndre Hopkins

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In the past, Hopkins was an elite receiver. Now, he is 30 years old, and injuries combined with a suspension were a problem in the last couple of years. However, he was still a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver when he was on the field. Hopkins is available to get via trade in the off-season, and the Vikings have been linked to him. His contract is absurd, but he recently stated that he is willing to be flexible. A contract restructure would be necessary. The wideout recorded 159 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings in 2022.

K.J. Osborn

Thielen’s replacement might already be on the roster and has been an understudy of the Minnesota native for three seasons. Osborn came into the league in 2020 with Jefferson and didn’t play on offense as a rookie before he exploded onto the scene in 2021. In the last couple of seasons, the wideout recorded 1,305 receiving yards and 12 scores. The problem is his consistency. 42% of his yardage total in 2022 came in two games. In nine games, Osborn was held under 20 receiving yards.

Osborn Sheds More Light
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It is possible that he can rise to the occasion with more opportunities, and he would certainly not be the worst number-two receiver in the league but three explosive wideouts are better than two. The Vikings should add another player to the receiver room, but increasing Osborn’s role might be an option regardless.

Jalen Nailor

The 2022 rookie is a long shot to suddenly become a star. However, he flashed potential against the Packers, and his speed is what the Vikings’ offense needs. It’s unlikely, but crazier things happened.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt