Going into 2019, we knew the Vikings were going to be a run heavy offense under Kevin Stefanski with the oversight of Gary Kubiak, and the expectations from Mike Zimmer. Now that Stefanski is gone to be the head coach of the Browns, Kubiak takes his spot as OC; we should expect the same offense in 2020.
With the departure of Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen becomes the defecto #1 WR, and he should see an uptick in volume. Their likely #2 WR is rookie Justin Jefferson, who played nothing but the slot in his last season at LSU, but absolutely lit it up.
Unfortunately, there might not be a spot for a pure slot WR on the Vikings; the Vikings ran the 2nd most snaps out of 12-personnel (2 WR, 2 TE), and played the least 11-personnel (3 WR) of any team last season. Gary Kubiak doesn’t happen to run much 11-personnel, either.
All that adds up to them believing that Jefferson can play on the outside. Will he be able to adjust quickly enough to a fantasy contributor in 2020? That’s only if he pulls an AJ Brown, who also had similar slot line-up percentages throughout his college career, but excelled on the outside in the NFL. One big difference is that Brown was the alpha WR on the Titans offense.
On a run-heavy offense last season, Thielen didn’t have more than 8 targets in any given week and averaged 6.3 over the first 6 weeks before he got hurt, and it’s not because Diggs was hogging them either; Diggs himself averaged less than 5 targets/game over the first 5 games before exploding in Week 6 against a terrible Eagles secondary.
Regardless of the low target volume, Thielen got it done on efficiency, racking up 5 TDs over that 6-game period. If he didn’t grab those TDs, the view on him would be extremely different right now. Sure, he got it done, but depending on efficiency isn’t a good strategy.
I’m welcoming the increased target share, but here are the names from the latest mock drafts from WR8 (3.02) through WR16: Golladay, Thielen, OBJ, Kupp, Amari Cooper, Juju, Allen Robinson, DJ Moore, AJ Brown, and Calvin Ridley (4.07). Is it crazy to say that all of these guys might have more upside than Thielen in 2020? I don’t think so.