Adam Thielen has been one of the best stories in the NFL in recent history. The Minnesota Vikings picked him up as an undrafted free agent in 2013, and over time, he’s turned himself into one of the most productive wide receivers in the NFL. He’s earned two Pro-Bowl selections and a spot on the NFL’s All-Pro second team in 2017, and has been a major part of the Vikings’ offensive success over the past few seasons.
Thielen’s production has taken a hit over the past few seasons, though. He has struggled with injuries, as he has not played a full season in each of the past three years, and has watched Justin Jefferson emerge into one of the top wideouts in the NFL.
Still, Thielen has a lot of potential for fantasy football owners, even though he profiles as the Vikings second best wide receiver. Thielen, much like the rest of Minnesota’s offense last season, struggled to find any sort of consistency, and will be looking to have a bounce back season as a result. Will that be possible? Let’s take a closer look at Thielen’s fantasy football outlook for the 2022 campaign and find out.
Adam Thielen’s 2022 Fantasy Football outlook
Adam Thielen’s numbers from the 2021 season aren’t horrible (67 REC, 726 YDS, 10 TD), but he missed four of the Vikings final five games due to an ankle injury. Thielen became very reliant on scoring touchdowns, and his touchdown pace over the past two seasons, in which he has scored 24 touchdowns in 28 games played, isn’t sustainable moving forward.
Thielen still finished as the 27th best wide receiver from a fantasy football perspective last season despite only playing in 13 games. Unfortunately, Jefferson finished as the fourth best receiver, and given how he’s only 23 years old and will only continue to get better, he’s clearly the Vikings top wide receiver. Quarterback Kirk Cousins will be looking Jefferson’s way first before looking at Thielen, which immediately limits his fantasy production.
Still, Thielen isn’t unfamiliar with sharing targets with another star wide receiver. His best seasons came when he played alongside Stefon Diggs, although at the time they were more even rather than one being ahead of the other. Even with Jefferson’s uptick in production, Thielen should still have at least 100 targets coming his way over the course of a 17 game season.
That will make for a productive wide receiver when it comes to fantasy football metrics. Assuming Thielen’s touchdown totals fall back down to earth, and his yards and reception totals increase, his production will probably even out. If Thielen can stay healthy, he should be expected to eclipse the 1000 yard mark for the first time since 2018.
There are some question marks surrounding Thielen heading into the 2022 season, though. His injury struggles over the past few seasons are concerning, as is Jefferson emerging and taking away targets from Thielen. For that reason, many people are confused with where to rank Thielen. Some think he could be a borderline top 20 wideout; others think he barely squeezes inside the top 40.
Personally, I’d lean towards Thielen coming in closer to 20 than 40. Yes, the concerns I’ve mentioned are going to limit his production, but Thielen has thrived as a secondary target before. If he can stay healthy, there’s no doubt in my mind he will be among the best WR2s in fantasy.
It’s also worth noting that behind Thielen, there isn’t much pass-catching help for Cousins. KJ Osborn is a solid third wide receiver, and Dalvin Cook can be a threat out of the backfield, but other than that there isn’t much. The Vikings also have a new coaching regime under the offensive-minded Kevin O’Connell, which should help open up an offense that struggled for much of the 2021 season.
Jumping in feet first on Thielen would be a bit risky, but he has some upside and potential for a bounce back campaign after dealing with injuries. He’s still a deadly red zone threat, and if teams focus on locking up Jefferson, that leaves Thielen to run free behind him. If Cousins can pick up O’Connell’s offensive scheme early, Thielen could have one of the most productive seasons of his career.
Overall, Thielen’s draft position is a bit tricky to predict given the different factors surrounding his 2022 season. On one hand, he’s an injury-prone 32 year old wideout playing second fiddle to Jefferson. On the other hand, he’s a proven secondary wideout who may be able to excel behind Jefferson in one-on-one matchups.
Thielen’s range is wide depending on how the board falls. He’s probably a backend WR2 player at best, but is more likely to serve fantasy owners best as a FLEX option. The earliest Thielen will go is probably the eighth round, and if he’s still around by rounds 11 or 12, it’s probably time to scoop him up. There are a lot of question marks surrounding Adam Thielen, but he could end up being a steal in the middle rounds if he is still available, making him someone worth keeping an eye on as the draft board unfolds.