We saw a changing of the guard in Minnesota last season, as rookie Justin Jefferson overtook Adam Thielen for the target and receiving yardage lead on the team. But even as “second fiddle,” Thielen caught a whopping 14 touchdowns in 2020.
To commemorate the 2021 NFL season, we’ll be counting down the 75 best fantasy football players in the league. Picking a Top 75 is subjective, especially when you are projecting a whole season of accumulated fantasy points, but that’s part of the fun. We’ll assume what I see as an average league, which is 12 teams, .5 PPR scoring and a roster of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, & 1RB/WR/TE. Kickers and defenses need not apply.
Change is the nature of the NFL beast, so trades and injuries will likely impact this list as we go along, but hey, this isn’t rocket science. We’re here to have a little fun and build up some much needed anticipation for a league cast in the shadow by baseball, soccer, hockey, etc. Sarcasm aside, the NFL is addictive and we’re here to give your daily fix as we close in on the season.
The official and often updated fantasy football drafting tiers can be found here.
No. 50, Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings, WR
Thielen has had a good career as a Viking, having topped 925 yards and 69 receptions in four of his last five seasons. An injury laden 2019 stopped his two season streak of 90+ receptions and 1,275+ receiving yards. Then in 2020, rookie Jefferson broke out and surpassed Thielen in targets and most stats, but Thielen did have his best touchdown season ever by a wide margin. He’ll need to close in on those 14 touchdowns this season if he wants to crack the Top 10 fantasy receivers again.
Competition for touches
Thielen will again have Justin Jefferson as his main competition for touches. Last season Jefferson had 125 targets to Thielen’s 108, but Thielen did miss one game. In projecting the two, we can expect similar target numbers while Jefferson is going to have a higher yards per reception rate. Other than Jefferson Chad Beebe, Irv Smith Jr. and Dalvin Cook will be in line for targets. None should be a threat to Thielen’s workload.
Team offensive expectations
The offense should again be above average in 2021 with Cook, Jefferson and Thielen as the key pieces. Kirk Cousins has the ability to get them the ball and keep their fantasy fate on an upward trajectory. We can’t expect more than the usual, but the usual is pretty good.
What’s his upside?
Thielen’s upside is similar to his 2020 season. He saw a decrease in yardage and receptions, but was a touchdown magnet. We should see his receptions and yardage bump back up a little while his touchdowns bump down, but a Top 15 fantasy finish is within his reach once again.
What’s his downside?
Thielen’s downside is tied to his touchdown rate and health. If he can keep his touchdown rate high, his decrease in work behind Jefferson won’t hurt him in fantasy much, but if he can’t find the end zone as well as last season and he continues to lose work to Jefferson, his numbers could look average.
80 receptions, 110 targets, 1050 yards, 10 touchdowns