Adam Thielen was a great surprise for many this year. I drafted him in the 11th round of my home league, and since he’s a potential keeper for me (we can lose a 10th rounder in the following draft to keep anyone drafted 10th or later the previous year), so he’s definitely a candidate to keep for me. He came out of the gate with 9 catches on 10 targets for 157 yards from Sam Bradford, and continued to produce with Case Keenum.

Stefon Diggs came out of the gate on fire as well, catching 7 of 8 for 93 yards and 2 TDs in Week 1, and stayed on fire once Keenum took over in Week 2. Diggs averaged 98 yards and a TD over the first 4 weeks before he got hurt in Week 5. He came back slow, and Thielen went on to average 11 targets and 102 yards in a 6-week stretch between Week 6 and 12. Thielen definitely cooled down after that, averaging only 4 catches on 54 yards and no TDs between Weeks 13 and 17.

Here is how it played out over the last 3 weeks of the 2017 regular season:

PlayerTargetsReceptionsYardsTDs
Stefon Diggs20161553
Adam Thielen18111150

If we go back just one game further, Diggs and Thielen were getting the same amount of targets on a per game average over those 4 games, but Diggs had the 3 TDs in that stretch. One thing to note is that Thielen’s time in the slot changed significantly as the season went on, most notably after the Vikings’ Week 9 bye. Before the bye, he was running about 56% of his routes from the slot; after the bye, it went down to 43% up until Week 17 where he ran almost 70%. Not sure what happened in Week 17, but maybe they’re still trying to figure out his best spot, and realized that his production dipped the weeks before. With that said, there wasn’t much of a correlation between his targets and the number of routes he ran from the slot, but his production did take a bit of a dip.

Adam Thielen’s 4 Weeks of 40% or less of passing plays from slot:

WeekSnap percentage on pass playsTargetsReceptionsYardsOpponent
726%12541Ravens
1335%5451Falcons
1536%5330Bengals
1640%6224Packers

When Thielen played more than 40% of his snaps from the slot, his totals look a bit different; he averaged 6 catches on 9.5 targets for 91.5 yards. One of the reasons for Thielen’s hit at the slot position was because the Vikings were trying to use Jarius Wright in that position to maximize what they had at WR. Wright was only playing on 16 snaps per game this year, but he did have a couple of games where he played more than usual, and he runs 70-80% of his routes from the slot position when he’s on the field. This can change going into next year. Bottom line is if I’m drafting Thielen next year, I want him to be running out of the slot most of the time.

Thielen has definitely been the guy at WR for the Vikings this year and is a great talent for sure, but we might be overpaying for him next year, given that there is some flux as to who the true #1 WR is. He definitely is the more reliable WR, as Diggs gets banged up a bit and has either missed a couple of games due to injury over the last couple of seasons or has not been 100% for some of the games that he does suit up for. However, if Diggs becomes a draft day value compared to Thielen, we have to consider his talent and his big play ability. If you look at how he opened the season, we can only imagine what he would be able to do this year if he didn’t get hurt. Would Thielen have emerged the way he did? Will their stat lines be more similar in 2018 than they were in 2017? Diggs did have 8 TDs this year after making the move to the outside, so we could be talking about a 10+ TD season for him if he didn’t get hurt. PFF has given him the best WR rating in the red zone over the past two seasons.

Keep an eye out for how they perform in the playoffs, and who ends the season as the go-to target for Case Keenum… which leads to the next question.

Who is going to be the QB for the Vikings in 2018? Is it Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, or Sam Bradford? It’ll probably be either Keenum or Bridgewater, and there are more changes it’ll be Teddy if the Vikes don’t make it to the Super Bowl. This sample size we have of 2017 is with Keenum as the QB, and if another QB is taking snaps in 2018, we really have to just stick our finger in the air and take our best guess. What we don’t know is if two receivers who will carry 3rd to 4th round redraft value will retain that value in this offense. They can sure support two fantasy relevant receivers now, but relevant is not what we’re looking for when we’re drafting guys in the 3rd to 4th rounds. And who will the 2018 QB prefer between the two? To minimize risk, I might have to go with whoever is going later in drafts, but we’ll see come draft time.