Hey, Geico, it’s time to give a different Vikings wide receiver a spot in your ad campaign:
It’s not that you missed when you picked Stefon Diggs. Minnesota’s fourth-year wideout is having a fine year—he’s on pace for a 107-catch, 1,160-yard, eight-touchdown season—and everything does seem to stick to his hands. He came into Week 6 with zero drops on 38 catchable balls, the highest number of catchable passes for any receiver without a drop. It’s just that Diggs has been overshadowed by teammate Adam Thielen, who has cemented himself as not only the best receiver on the Vikings, but a top pass catcher in the entire league and the best wideout—full stop—to have in fantasy football.
Thielen carved up the Cardinals on Sunday, catching 11 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, and adding to a season that can only be described as ridiculous. Thielen has accumulated more than 100 receiving yards in each of his first six performances. He is the only wide receiver to do so in the Super Bowl era. He’s been Kirk Cousins’s favorite target, grabbing 58 receptions so far—that’s the most ever through six weeks. Thielen is now on pace for 155 catches, 1,899 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns.
Thielen isn’t as physically impressive or athletic as talents like Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, or Antonio Brown. But Thielen belongs in the conversation with any of those guys as one of the very best wideouts in the NFL. He’s one of the most refined route runners in the league, and he’s a versatile receiver who regularly switches between lining up outside and in the slot. But those traits alone don’t explain Thielen’s success. Thielen’s understanding of angles and space is nearly unmatched. He’s fast enough to take advantage of his innate understanding for the game, and he racked up 198 yards after the catch this year before Week 6, which ranked seventh in the league, per Pro Football Focus. Put it all together and he’s one of the most technically precise and versatile pass catchers in football.
When it comes to fantasy, Thielen isn’t just among the best—he is the best. Through six weeks, Thielen has been the most consistent fantasy producer in the NFL. He’s produced double-digit points in each of his first six games, which is an accomplishment generally reserved for only elite running backs. He’s the NFL’s ultimate set-him-and-forget-him player, as Cousins has targeted him at least 10 times in every single game. Thielen gets enough attention in his offense that he’ll virtually always put up numbers—he’s putting up “boom” numbers without being a boom-or-bust type player.
And Cousins will need to keep targeting Thielen, too. The Vikings came into Week 6 with the worst rushing offense in football by DVOA and the seventh-worst defense by the same metric. They had a solid day both on the ground and on defense Sunday, but there’s a bit of an asterisk there: The Cardinals have the worst offense in football and aren’t too tough to run against, either. Ultimately, this team will live and die on Cousins’s arm—and that means Thielen should continue to shred defenses.
Fantasy players knew Thielen would be pretty good this season, as he had an average draft position of 32nd overall and was the 13th wide receiver off the board, per FantasyPros. Obviously, no one expected him to put up the types of numbers he has—in fact, Thielen wasn’t even the highest-drafted receiver on his own team, as Diggs was being taken 29th overall on average. The Vikings gave Diggs—their “Minnesota Miracle” wideout—a hefty extension this offseason, so the increased expectations for him are understandable. But with six weeks of the NFL in the books, it’s finally safe to say it: Thielen has been so good that he’s not just the best receiver on his team or one of the top-five wideouts in the NFL or the best wideout in fantasy. Thielen is so good he should be selling insurance.