January 26, 2021

Adam Thielen Injury Update: Is he playing this week?

6 min read
In a year filled with uncertainty, it is only fitting that as we approach the...

In a year filled with uncertainty, it is only fitting that as we approach the most critical games of the year in fantasy football, some of the best players’ status remains uncertain as we near kickoff. Among the list of questionable players is Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen, who currently sits on the NFL reserve list due to conflicting test results. Is he playing in Week 12, or will fantasy managers be forced to sit Adam Thielen on their bench Sunday?

Updated November 27th: ESPN senior NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler is reporting that Vikings WR Adam Thielen is not expected to play vs. Panthers.

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Adam Thielen’s availability is still uncertain for Sunday

Unfortunately, there is a serious chance that the Minnesota Vikings and fantasy managers will need to make alternate plans as the availability of Thielen is still questionable. On Monday, Adam Thielen was placed on the NFL reserved list due to a positive test, reported by NFL Networks Tom Pelissero. He also stated that Thielen then tested negative in the following test, leading to the possibility of the initial result being a false-positive.

Thielen became the sixth Vikings player in the past month to be isolated on the team’s reserve list. 

Thielen, who is tested daily under NFL protocols, can still be cleared to return for Sunday’s game against the Panthers. The NFL requires a minimum five-day quarantine for high-risk close contacts and asymptomatic cases, and at least 10 days for symptomatic cases. Players can return even sooner if they’re not positive or deemed a “high-risk” close contact, as long as they test negative.

Related | Week 12 WR Rankings: Sleepers, must starts, busts

On Wednesday, head coach Mike Zimmer was asked about his expectations of Adam Thielen playing this week.

“I don’t know, honestly,” Zimmer said Wednesday when asked of his expectations. “He’s in the protocol, and we’ll just see. When you get in these protocols, it’s always about, ‘What’s the next test, and the next test?’ So we’ll just have to see as the week goes on.”

If he is not on the field and playing for the Vikings in Week 12, it is a massive blow for their offense as Adam Thielen leads the league with a career-high 11 touchdown receptions.

Adam Thielen is having a career year after the loss of Stefon Diggs

After the loss of Stefon Diggs in the offseason, questions surrounded the Vikings team, mainly on two topics. First, could Adam Thielen put together the seasons we have been used to as the primary receiver? Second, can the Vikings find a WR2 that can fill in and be an instant producer in the offense? We all thought there would be a dip in production. You can’t lose someone like Diggs and not see your team suffer, right? Well, maybe things aren’t as bad as we thought.

First off, Adam Thielen has been phenomenal this season. Playing in 10 games so far (the same as he did in 2019), his stats are well ahead of last year’s production.

In 2019, Thielen caught 30 of his 48 targets for 418 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 11.4 PPR points per game and was the WR63 on what was a rather disappointing season for the player who has gone over 1,200 yards the previous two years.

In 2020, Thielen is back to being his WR1 self again. He has 49 catches on 76 targets for 646 yards in 10 games and has a league-leading 11 touchdowns. While his yards are more in line with his 2016 season (967), the efficiency he has shown is incredible. 

Through 11 weeks, no NFL offense has scored more touchdowns than the Vikings when within the opponent’s 20-yard line. What’s more astonishing is that only Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook have scored for the team, both with 10 apiece. 

If Adan Thielen is not playing in Week 12, rookie sensation Justin Jefferson will have to step up

If Adam Thielen is not playing this week, Justin Jefferson, the breakout rookie from LSU, will have to take over, something he has shown the ability to do this season. 

Where Thielen has the touchdowns, Jefferson has the yards and big play ability. Jefferson’s 45 catches on 59 targets for 848 yards and four touchdowns not only leads the Vikings in yards but is also the leading amount for this star-studded rookie class.

Jefferson’s 18.8 yards per reception is third-best in the NFL. He also leads the NFL in yards per target at 14.4. While Thielen is always credited with some of the best hands in the game, Jefferson is doing just as well in his own right.

Related | NFL Rookie Rankings Week 12: Jefferson and Herbert rise this week

On deep targets, where Jefferson shines, he has been targeted 17 times and has not dropped a single ball that was beyond 20 yards, emphasizing how elite his tracking ability is. On his 12 receptions, Jefferson turned them into 407 yards and three touchdowns. 

With 4.43 speed, it’s no surprise that Jefferson has developed into an explosive deep threat in the NFL. He is the league leader in yards per route at 3.25, which would be the highest rate by a rookie in the past 10 seasons.

It only took 10 games for Justin Jefferson to establish himself as one of the best deep threats in the NFL, and it has had a massive impact on his fantasy value. He currently is the WR18 in PPR. For those in dynasty, Jefferson’s price has skyrocketed since the draft; he currently is my WR7 in dynasty and is the rookie WR2, only behind CeeDee Lamb. 

All of this is rather amazing when you realize he might not even be the best wide receiver on his own college team, something we will figure out next year when Ja’Marr Chase steps onto the big stage. 

If Adam Thielen is playing in Week 12, what can we expect for fantasy?

If we see Adam Thielen is playing in Week 12, then he is a locked-in WR1 in a fantastic matchup against the Carolina Panthers and their atrocious cornerbacks. We don’t know if Panthers CB Donte Jackson will play this week, but it’s something to monitor as his replacement Troy Pride is about as exploitable for someone like Thielen as it gets.

On the 30 targets he has seen, Pride has allowed 24 completions (80%) for 351 yards and two touchdowns. His NFL passer rating when targeted is an absurd 137.6 through 11 games played. When targeted, Pride is averaging 2.5 fantasy points allowed per target. Add in Adam Thielen, who is 19th in yards in the NFL, first in touchdowns, and sees 46.9% of the Vikings red zone targets, and his efficiency has him in line for one of the best plays of the week.

If Adam Thielen does not play, the Justin Jefferson vaults in the WR1 rankings. He’s averaged 2.61 PPR points per target, which ranks as the most in the NFL among wide receivers who’ve seen at least 40 targets.

Like we mentioned earlier, when he sees the ball, Jefferson is electric. Which makes it surprising he doesn’t see more targets. But as the team’s WR2 and on an offense that is willing to feed Cook 25 or more times, there will naturally be a reduction in volume for other players. He’s seen five or fewer targets in 7-of-10 games this year; however, if Thielen sits, Jefferson would be a must-play low-end fantasy WR1 who should see eight-plus targets.

Want more fantasy football analysis and news?

Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @PFN365 to stay up to date with all things around the NFL and the 2020 fantasy football season. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis while also seeing our fantasy football section for more coverage and up-to-date rankings.

Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

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