Adam Thielen has always been a dynasty darling of mine. I remember buying him everywhere in 2016 for late first and early second round rookie picks, solely due to the amount of love he seemed to receive from his offensive coordinator. Needless to say, he was a bright feather in my fantasy hat and those trades have proven to be good ones at this point. However, like any good fantasy football player and analyst, I also need to step back and look at the future of this player to see if I’m now overvaluing him.
Looking at March ADP, we can see Thielen is the 14th player off the board. However, a good deal of this value comes from his very productive year in 2018 at the age of 28. Thus, let’s set the bar and this edition of “Dynasty Mythbusters” as Thielen being a top 12 dynasty wide receiver option. Going to the masses on Twitter, we can see the divide.
Working on my new paper.
Mythbuster: Adam Theilen is a top 12 WR moving forward
What does Twitter think?
Adam Theilen is…
— Tyler Ghee (@TylerGheeNFL) April 3, 2019
Needless to say, this makes Thielen a perfect candidate for the Mythbusters series. This series takes a look at individual players and uses data and evidence to support a claim or hypothesis. I, as a writer, will attempt to be impartial and present one of two conclusions:
CONFIRMED (Data supports the claim or hypothesis)
BUSTED (Data does NOT support the claim or hypothesis )
The papers claim, “Adam Thielen will be a top 12 wide receiver option for years to come.”
In order to discover if this “Myth” is confirmed or busted, we must look at what data we have about the current offensive scheme in Minnesota. Below are the weekly finishes for Thielen during the 2018 season – the reason this season is the one under review is due to the wide range of outcomes throughout the year.
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Graph from FFstatistics.
Above we can see the tale of what looks like two separate players. After week nine, we see Thielen’s production drop dramatically. Even more concerning are the finishes for weeks 15 through week 17. During those final weeks, Thielen scored just 23.9 of his 307.3 fantasy points. What’s even more alarming is the fact he finished as the WR48 (Stats from FFstatistics) during that stretch. So, why was there such a drop in production in the second half of the year? The two best contributors that come to mind are:
- The reemergence of Dalvin Cook into the offense
- The change in the offensive scheme due to an offensive coordinator change week 14.
All of these concerns will be researched and explored in this paper.
THE ADDITION OF COOK
Cook dealt with a lot of injuries early on in the season. Although active from the first game of the year, Cook really didn’t contribute much to the offense until week nine – is it an accident Thielen’s production started dropping that same week? In order to better understand what exactly was going on, we can look at the split between these two. Below is split data for both years Cook and Thielen have played together.
Adam Thielen Splits with Dalvin Cook 2017 & 2018
Table from FFstatistics.
Above we can see some interesting developments. As logic would assume, the Vikings wideout posts a bit less production when other offensive weapons join the team. Looking at averages, we can determine that when splitting, the wide receiver averages 15.86 fantasy points for a total of 253.76. Where does that rank among other wideouts last year? At 253 points, Thielen would have finished in most leagues as the WR13, just outside of the hypothesis. Although this does help us, I thought it would be interesting to see just the 2018 season isolated, so let’s do just that.
Adam Thielen Splits with Dalvin Cook 2018
Table from FFstatistics.
Here we see some slight changes from what we saw above. The first thing that seems to jump off the page is the “out of split data.” At 413.44 points, Thielen would have finished as the WR1 and would have only been passed by Patrick Mahomes for total fantasy points. Although this seems exciting, it also does not necessarily depict accuracy – it simply shows how on fire Thielen was for the first few games. What is even more interesting is the fact that in the split, Thielen doesn’t change much from the previous table – 259 points mean that once again Thielen would have finished as the WR13, just outside our mark.
All of this evidence does seem to point toward Thielen just missing the WR1 threshold we’re analyzing, but splitting with the added offensive weapon of Dalvin Cook doesn’t seem to be too concerning. Let’s now look at the offensive scheme changes of the Vikings.
CHANGE OF OC
When discussing Thielen’s production, it’s important to note the coaching change toward the latter half of the year. However, was this just happenstance or was there a real correlation between the two? On December 11th, 2018, the Vikings fired John DeFilippo after losing to the Seattle Seahawks in week 14 in the regular season. When he was let go, the organization saw fit to promote Kevin Stefanski for the remainder of the 2018 season and kept him for the 2019 season as well. With a change in offense, we can usually expect a change in plays and targets. Below are the targets for Thielen throughout the year – the biggest aspect we need to look at is the change from DeFilippo to a Stefanski-led offense.
Graph from AirYards.
Above we can see the decline in targets for the 28-year-old wideout. However, I think it should be noted plenty of targets were already being depleted before the week 15 mark. Targets can often time be a notation of game script as well. Were these games the Vikings were up and simply didn’t need to throw? Let’s examine the target share of the team to uncover that data:
Graph from AirYards.
Above we can see it wasn’t just the number of throws that went down, but throws toward Thielen himself. In the three games Stefansk ran the offense, these are the targets:
- S. Diggs: 23
- K. Rudolph: 18
- A. Thielen: 12
- D. Cook: 10
- A. Robinson: 8
- Other: 9
(Stat from @MikeClayNFL)
All of this data points to a shift in targets where Stefon Diggs seems to be the primary target in the new offense.
The last bit of info that needs to be looked at is the number of years Thielen has left of production. As a player who got a later start production-wise, it’s important to determine how many years he can contribute to a dynasty roster. Below is the “z score” for Thielen compared to every wideout for the last 18 years. A “z score” takes into account the averages and standard deviations placed in each age group – Thielen isn’t the main comparison, but this data shows where we see drops in production for wide receivers.
Graph from FFstatistics.
Above we can see there are a few years where a wideout can see either increased or decreased production. However, it should be noted while the production can go up for these players, it seems by the dispersed points that fewer maintain this elite production for too long after age 30.
I think Thielen will be a productive wide receiver, but I worry about his place in this new offense. If I had to project his status moving forward, I would say he will finish at a top-end WR2 option this season. Predicting the future can be difficult and make no mistake Thielen is a good wideout who recently extended a well-deserved contract for another four years. However, I would use this as a great opportunity to trade Thielen at max value. Below is a reference for the type of value you can expect to get. If unable to sell, I will happily hold any productive wide receiver.
Our trade analyzer is another great resource. At this point, it looks like trading Thielen in an offer for the 1.01 and 3.01 rookie picks in this year’s draft would result in a relatively equal trade. If you have more faith in your choice of rookies carving out more value, that could be something to consider.
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