Adam Thielen isn't a sexy name in fantasy football. Injuries destroyed his value in 2019, and in 2018 he averaged a modest 12.2 yards per reception — producing solid numbers but not posting the gaudy stats that can make someone a star.
That reputation he earned seems to have people seriously underrating his fantasy football upside in 2020.
To start with, we shouldn't take Thielen's 2019 numbers too seriously. Three of his 10 regular season games saw him limited by injury, and he was clearly healthy again when he caught 12 passes for 179 yards while playing over 80 percent of the Minnesota Vikings' snaps in two playoff games.
The Vikes were also abnormally run-heavy, passing on just 51.7 percent of their snaps (No. 29 in the NFL). Kevin Stefanski is out and Gary Kubiak is in at the offensive coordinator spot, and the last time Kubiak coached a team (the 2016 Denver Broncos), they ranked No. 15 in the NFL with a 59.8 percent pass play percentage. Expect there to be more targets to go around in Minny in 2020 than there were last year.
Thielen should also see his target share improve significantly with Stefon Diggs gone from the offense.
In a small sample of six games with Diggs out of the lineup over the last three seasons, Thielen saw his targets per game jump to 8.7 (up from 7.4 when Diggs played). Thielen also accounted for 26.6 percent of the Vikes' targets through Week 6 last year (his healthy stretch of the season), while he and Diggs combined for a massive 50.3 percent share.
Not only is there going to be more volume to go around, but a higher share of it will likely be heading Thielen's way.
That potential for big volume is also more than enough to make him an elite fantasy producer, even if he doesn't post dazzling yard-per-catch numbers.
Five of the top eight WRs in PPR fantasy scoring last season averaged fewer than 12.0 yards per reception, while only two of the top eight saw fewer than 150 targets. In fact, there wasn't a single WR who saw 150-plus looks that didn't finish as a top-eight fantasy wideout.
Considering Thielen has hit that threshold before, it's not a stretch to believe he could repeat the performance with Diggs gone in 2020. He may not be an efficiency monster, but that kind of volume would be enough to make Thielen a top-12 fantasy wideout this season, while even a top-six finish is firmly within his realistic range of outcomes.
Thielen checks in at WR14 in our 2020 fantasy football rankings.
Jason Schandl is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Jason Schandl also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username Jaymun. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.