I previously wrote a things I was wrong about after week 1 which you can see here:
Now that we are 5 weeks in (>30% of FF season and >40% of the FF reg season), I wanted to revisit one topic in detail. Adam Thielen.
He is a front runner for my biggest miss of the off-season (along with Mahomes) so I’m just going to get ahead and say right now, I am eating crow for this mistake.
So far through 5 weeks, Thielen has recorded 5 consecutive 100 yd + games which has never been done before in the first 5 weeks of a season and has only been done consecutively 22 times in the history of the NFL (neither Rice or Moss did so) per PFF.
Thielen’s current 16 game pace: 211 targets, 150 receptions (NFL Record: 143 Marvin harrison), 1884 yards (NFL Record: 1,946 by Megatron) and 9 TDs
Let that sink in for a second. This would be a historic season. And by an undrafted, practice squad player nonetheless. Do I think his current pace is sustainable? Probably not. But even if he attains 80% of that, he would shatter all expectations I’ve had for him and made me out to be a fool for doubting him. I’m personally rooting for him.
Now for the why I missed so badly. After having gone back and studied the film and looked at the numbers, I think I was wrong because of the following main reasons:
1) Vikings Defense: I did not expect the vikings D to be this bad. I thought that vikings had the best if not one of the best defenses in the league coming into this season which would have favored more run heavy game scripts. I imagined something similar to last year where they could get up by 7 points, and let the defense do the rest. That has not been the case. Vikings so far have been a bottom 12 defense in the league. I don’t think anyone saw this coming.
2) No Dalvin Cook: This goes hand in hand with the above. Going into the season, I thought they would have their stud RB available. So far, he has only been fully healthy in one game. So they really haven’t been able to run the ball much given how mediocre murray is.
3) Cousins Record Breaking Passing Volume: One of my main knocks on Thielen was that I didn’t think his 2017 volume was sustainable. But given how much vikings are throwing the ball (partially cause of the awful D), Thielen is actually on pace to SURPASS his target volume from last year. Now I don’t actually think that is sustainable as I do expect vikings to recover on the defense, assuming Griffen returns (he’s been out with mental illness and is a big reason for the D sucking as of late). Just to give you a sense for how ridiculous the vikings numbers are right now, Cousins has made 226 pass attempts so far through 5 weeks. That is on pace for 723 attempts on the season. In 2017, not a single QB broke 600 pass attempts. Brady led the way with 581. In the HISTORY of the NFL, there has only been 1 QB to crack 700 attempts in a season. And that was Matthew Stafford in 2012 with 727. Currently, both Luck and Cousins are on pace for that record. Personally don’t think this is sustainable but even on decreased volume, Thielen should still produce.
4) Thielen is an excellent route runner: I underestimated Thielen’s ability from a route running perspective and his ability to find holes in the zone. I accredited too much of his success to Shurmur’s scheme and not enough to his ability. One of my biggest arguments was that I felt like Diggs was way more talented than Thielen and was a much better contested catch WR. I still believe this to be true. However, you know what’s better than contested catches for QBs? Wide open receivers and that’s what Thielen is. Chris Hogan needs to vacate the 7/11 title to Thielen cause this dude is literally ALWAYS OPEN. I’ve now seen every snap thielen/cousins have played together and on pretty much every single completion, Adam Thielen created excellent separation. In most of his big plays, you can barely see a defender in the same screen from broadcast view. But even in coaches film view, he is just so good at finding and sitting in holes in zone coverage. It’s actually insane. Part of the reason for this though is because Diggs is still consistently drawing coverage from the opposing teams best CB. And for most teams, their 2nd tier/Slot CB just aren’t good enough to cover Thielen. Thielen is the main beneficiary of teams committing double coverage to Diggs. Similar to the Nuk/Fuller combo in Houston.
5) NFL Rule changes. Now this may sound stupid but I honestly think this has had a huge impact, not only on Thielen but on all QB/WRs as a whole. These penalties are insane but specifically in the case of the vikings, they have now received 2 late roughing the passer calls which have directly resulted in Thielen getting huge plays thereafter on drives which would have ended in seasons past. Of all the factors though, I’d say this is the smallest impact.
Anyway, sorry for the long post but I personally like to investigate into why I was wrong about things vs just taking it at face value. This allows me to determine whether or not these changes are sustainable or if they will revert. In the case of Thielen, here is my final verdict:
I do not think his current pace is sustainable, mainly cause I don’t think cousins will break the NFL single season passing record set by Stafford. I expect Zimmer to figure out the defensive side of the ball as one of the best defensive minds in the NFL and I’m assuming Griffen returns to the field. If he doesn’t, I’ll re-assess. I also expect Dalvin Cook to actually return this season, at which point they will actually be able to run the ball more. Lastly, I think defenses will learn to adjust to the rules / offenses as they always do. Having said all of that, I was still incredibly wrong with my pre-season assessment. I now think that Thielen will be a lock for WR1 ROS and definitely in the discussion for finishing top 6 at the position for the season.