Adam John Thielen will be 30 years old in the 2020 NFL season. Born in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, Thielen grew up a huge Vikings fan. He attended a local high school where he was a four-sport athlete, playing football, basketball, baseball, and golf. Thielen was All-Conference and an All-State selection in his senior year of high school for football while also excelling at golf. He went to Minnesota State Mankato University, a lesser-known state school in Minnesota.
He redshirted his freshman year, but in 2009, his second year at the school, he caught 21 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown. He stepped up big the next year winning Minnesota State Offensive Player of the Year with 41 receptions for 686 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The following season he was even better, catching 62 passes for 715 yards and 5 touchdowns. Finally, in his senior year, he caught 74 passes for 1,176 yards and 8 touchdowns. Additionally, he would return punts and sometimes kickoff returns as well.Thielen did not receive an invitation to the 2013 NFL Combine. Instead, he attended a Regional Combine in Chicago, where he performed well enough to be invited to the Super Regional in Dallas. He then demonstrated his athletic ability by running a 4.45-second 40-yard dash and an elite three-cone drill of 6.77 seconds. On his Pro day, Thielen measured at 6’ 1 ?” and weighed 192 pounds.
Thielen went undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft but attended a rookie tryout for the Minnesota Vikings where he signed a contract, but waived at final roster cuts. Minnesota chose to sign him to the practice squad. Thielen did see some preseason action as a wide receiver and on special teams.
The 2014 season Thielen had a strong preseason performance, which earned him a spot on the 53-man roster. He ended up playing in all 16 games but predominantly on special teams, only catching 8 passes for 137 yards and one touchdown. In 2015 Thielen again played all 16 games and still was mostly utilized on special teams. He only caught 12 passes for 144 yards and no touchdowns, earning the Vikings Special Team Player of the Year award.
Thielen finally broke out in 2016, finishing the season with 69 catches for 967 yards and 5 touchdowns. He had a 10 yards per target and a 75% catch rate, which ranked among the top five players in the NFL for WRs. Impressively he only dropped 2 of his 92 targets!
In 2017 Thielen again played in all 16 games, catching 91 passes for 1,276 yards and 4 touchdowns. He went to his first Pro Bowl, and his breakout had begun. He followed up the impressive 2017 season with an even better 2018 season.
In 2018, Thielen caught 113 passes for 1,373 yards and 9 touchdowns. Thielen had one of the most impressive streaks to start the season, going over 100 yards in eight straight games, tying Calvin Johnson for the record. Monster season from an unexpected source.
Signing a new four-year $64 million contract extension in 2019, Thielen missed his first games as an NFL player after suffering a hamstring injury. It limited him to only 10 games. When he was on the field, he struggled to the tune of 30 receptions for 418 yards and 6 touchdowns. It is a dramatic drop from the 113-1,373-9 stat line from the year before.
Let’s talk about Thielen’s injuries. Overall, he has been able to stay very healthy throughout his college and NFL career. It does not appear that he missed any games in college due to injury, and went the first 5 years of his NFL career without losing a game. Thielen suffered a concussion in December 2016 but managed to clear the protocol and suit up the next week.
Unfortunately, his impressive streak came to an end in 2019 when he suffered a hamstring injury in the middle of October, which initially only sidelined him for one game. A hamstring injury will re-injure easily. Less than three weeks later, Thielen reinjured the hamstring and missed an additional 4 games. He was finally able to return in the middle of December, Week 15.
Some players can clear hamstring troubles with limited issues, while others reinjure them usually by returning too quickly, similar to Leonard Fournette in 2018 and Adam Thielen in 2019. The goal is to prevent future hamstring issues and avoid becoming the next Will Fuller, who seems to struggle with hamstring injuries multiple times per year, every year.
When Thielen was on the field for the first seven weeks of the 2019 season, he did not display the same level of effectiveness compared to his fantastic season the year before. Going from catching over 100 yards per game in eight straight to only doing that once is a dramatic difference. He still managed to find the endzone, as he scored 6 touchdowns over the first 7 weeks.
Unfortunately, he was not getting enough targets to likely cover his draft price, as he never had more than 10 targets in one game the entire 2019 season. In contrast, Thielen had 9 games with over 10 targets in 2018. Going from 9.5 targets per game in 2018 to 4.8 targets per game in 2019 is like falling off of a cliff.
In 2020, Thielen will be the number one receiver, now that Stefon Diggs (BUF) is gone, in an offense that thrives on short and intermediate passes to the slot receiver, which he plays. In 2017 (91-1276-4) and 2018 (113-1373-9), Thielen caught a total of 204 passes and 13 touchdowns. Over this span, he was 4th in the NFL in receptions and 6th in receiving yards.
The rest of the wide receiving core is young. Minnesota drafted Justin Jefferson in the first-round, KJ Osborn in the fifth round, and Quartney Davis went undrafted. Bisi Johnson returns, and he caught 31 passes for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns. Minnesota also brought over Tajae Sharpe in free agency. Tight ends, Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. also are back.
The offense is different than it was during the ‘18 and ‘19 season as now the Vikings are focused on running the ball as their primary offense with Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, and Mike Boone.
The good news is that before this hamstring injury, Thielen was the model of health, literally playing in 100% of his games entering the 2019 season. As long as he can clear this hamstring injury, and prevent it from recurring through appropriate rehabilitation, stretching and strengthening (Nordic hamstring curls), and sometimes even considering regenerative medicine options, then Thielen should be good to go.
What makes Thielen so hard to stop is his route running and incredible catch radius. He is now entering his third season with Kirk Cousins, and watch the duo team-up in the red zone. Thielen is targeted continuously down low and could see increased targets now that Diggs is gone.
There is concern that without another top-tier wide receiver, Thielen may stumble. It is unlikely that will happen as they throw when necessary, and Thielen’s route running will keep him open. Also, Jefferson and Thielen will move around and exploit the weakness of the defense. There is enough offense to keep Thielen busy.
Sports Injury Predictor calculates Thielen as having a 37.3% chance of injury in 2020, which is a good score given how much he plays on the field. For a full-time player, this is one of the lower scores in the league, tied with Michael Thomas and Tyreek Hill.
I (Dr. Morse) am not overly concerned about Thielen’s injury risk. He suffered an unfortunate hamstring strain, and he returned to the field before he was 100%. Many of these elite athletes will only push it about 80 or 90% as they are ramping back up from injury.
Then when they hit the field, they go full 100% and suffer a re-injury. I always recommend that the athletes give it 100% in their training sessions before returning to the field. Often re-injuries can become worse than the initial injury, as the muscles and tendons or not back to full health yet, and can suffer significantly more damage, which in turn leads to missing even more time.
It isn’t surprising to see Adam Thielen farther down the boards than most would speculate. For the first time in his six-year career, he missed time, a total of six games due to a hamstring injury.
As of the end of June, Thielen is the 14th wide receiver going off the board in PPR leagues, in the same area as Amari Cooper and Cooper Kupp. At that price and for the style of the offense that the Vikings want to run, I (Dr. Morse) might have some shares of Thielen in 2020, but won’t go all in on him.
Injury wise I’m not overly concerned, as my injury risk score for him is a 4 out of 10.
Thielen is getting older, he will turn 30-years old, and the run game will limit his ceiling. However, he will get an excellent volume which will secure his floor. An ADP of a WR14 and 34th overall is a terrific price as he can finish in the top-10 of all receivers.
Injury Risk: Moderate. 4/10.
|Projected Missed||Probability of injury per game ?||Probablity of injury in the season ?|
|Nov 3, 2019||Thigh Hamstring Strain Grade 2||Thielen left the game at Kansas City with a hamstring injury in his right leg in the first quarter. He missed 4 games|
|Oct 20, 2019||Thigh Hamstring Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1||He suffered a hamstring injury midway through the first quarter of the game. He missed one game|
|Dec 18, 2016||Head Cranial Concussion Grade 1||Thielen missed about 2 quarters but returned the following week.|