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Dynasty Player Profile: Adam Thielen (2022 Fantasy Football)

Dynasty Player Profile: Adam Thielen (2022 Fantasy Football)

Adam Thielen 2021 Production

Team Player REC TGT YDS Y/R LG TD G FPTS Rank FPTS/G Rank
MIN Adam Thielen 67 95 726 10.8 35 10 13 166.3 28 12.8 14

 

 

Career Contextualization

Adam Thielen is a local kid who made good. Born and raised in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, he attended Minnesota State University before signing with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2013.

Thielen spent a year on the practice squad, and his most significant contributions over the next two seasons came on Special Teams. He suddenly emerged as a valuable fantasy contributor in 2016, when he hauled in 69 catches for 967 yards and five touchdowns and followed that up with two straight 1,200+ yard seasons in 2017 and 2018. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury and inconsistent quarterback play from Kirk Cousins soured his 2019 campaign.

Following the 2019 season, the Vikings drafted a new alpha in Justin Jefferson, and Thielen has not reached the 1,000-yard plateau since. That hasn’t meaningfully dented Thielen’s fantasy value, though. Instead, he’s emerged as one of the best red zone targets in the game, bringing in a combined 24 touchdown receptions over the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Between Cousins, Sam Bradford and Case Keenum, Thielen has never had an upper-echelon quarterback throwing him the football, and yet he’s managed to produce consistently. Overall, he’s finished among the top-14 wide receivers in fantasy points per game in four of the last five seasons.

Current Situation

Although Thielen remained very productive in his age-31 season, his 2021 campaign did end prematurely due to an ankle injury that required surgery. It’s probably reasonable to bake in a little more injury risk for a player who is coming off surgery and will be 32-years-old by Week 1.

Still, the injury shouldn’t be a major concern for 2022, at least according to Thielen. He recently said: “I’m probably feeling the lightest I’ve ever felt. … I’m excited about the way I feel coming off an injury, coming off a surgery. I feel great.”

In the same interview, Thielen noted how excited he is to play for Vikings’ new head coach Kevin O’Connell, who spent the previous two seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams’ high-octane offense. While O’Connell will need to prove he can get the job done without Sean McVay around, it can only help Thielen that he’ll be playing for the first offensive-minded coach of his career. For what it’s worth, Thielen certainly sounds confident that O’Connell will put him in a position to succeed.

The Vikings restructured Thielen’s deal this offseason, ensuring he will remain with the team in 2022. However, the new figures could force Minnesota to rework the deal again in 2023 — or even consider cutting Thielen if he fails to remain healthy and productive.

General Prediction for 2022 and Rest of Career

While Cousins may not be the ideal QB for a wideout, he’s hardly a worst-case scenario. As a result, Jefferson should maintain a sizable edge over Thielen in terms of targets and yards from scrimmage. Still, we can expect the red zone rapport between Cousins and Thielen to persist in the Vikings’ revamped offense. Perhaps Thielen will even have a shot to get back to 1,000-yards if Minnesota’s offense becomes significantly more pass-happy under O’Connell.

That’s assuming that Thielen stays healthy and shows no decline in skills, of course. At 32 years old, that might seem unlikely. However, research from the great Mike Tagliere should give Thielen managers plenty of hope. Tags found that over a 14-year period, 13.9 percent of 32-year-old wideouts finished as top-12 fantasy receivers, a higher hit rate than 23/24-year-olds — or 30-year-olds for that matter!

As with Keenan Allen, whom I profiled earlier this month, the decision on whether to buy, sell, or hold Thielen in dynasty circles largely comes down to what you’re trying to accomplish.

As a 32-year-old receiver who is still capable of producing borderline WR1 value, Thielen is the ultimate “win-now” asset. If you’re undertaking a rebuild, he’s a great addition to a contender and a fairly obvious sell.

There are some important differences between Thielen and Allen, though. While the two wideouts had similar statistical profiles earlier in their careers, Allen has remained a target hog while Thielen has become much more touchdown-dependent. That means that his floor isn’t as high as Allen’s, and his week-to-week production should fluctuate more than the Chargers’.

Thielen is also 20 months older than Allen, meaning he is significantly closer to hitting the age cliff, which receivers tend to reach in their age 33 or 34 seasons. As such, we should realistically only expect one or two more seasons of high-end production from Thielen.

I’d argue these differences in value between Allen and Thielen are more than accounted for in the trade market. A quick perusal of Dynasty League Football’s Trade Finder will show you that Allen is regularly netting a first-round pick or more, whereas Thielen can often be had for a mid-to-late second or even a third.

Personally, I’d have a hard time giving up Thielen for that return, even if I was undertaking a full rebuild. Instead, I’d rather hold out for at least a high second-round pick or just carry Thielen into the season and attempt to drum up a bidding war around the trade deadline.

 

CTAs


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Andrew Seifter is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @andrew_seifter.

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