The WR position was a major concern for the Minnesota Vikings entering the season, but the team may have finally found their receivers of the future.
The Vikings’ wide receiver woes have been widely publicized over the years. The last time the Minnesota Vikings had a receiver eclipse 1,000 yards was 2009, and the team has ranked in the bottom half of the league in passing every year since then.
Going into this year, receiver was once again highlighted as a glaring need. The team addressed it by drafting Laquon Treadwell in the first round, but that pick hasn’t panned out thus far. Treadwell has failed to work his way into the lineup, recording just one catch all season. Yet despite the rookie’s failure to provide the offensive spark the team was looking for, the Vikings are looking better at receiver than they have in years.
That can largely be attributed to second-year pro Stefon Diggs, whose production is verging on elite. With 80 receptions for 874 yards and 2 touchdowns, Diggs ranks 10th in the league in total receptions and 11th in receiving yards per game. At his current pace, Diggs stands to finally end the Vikings’ streak without a thousand-yard receiver.
Even bigger than Diggs’ contributions, however, might be the emergence of Adam Thielen. Ever since making the team as an undrafted free agent out of local Minnesota State University, Thielen has held on to his roster spot with gritty special teams play, but he was never expected to make much of an impact on offense. In his first two years with the Vikings combined, Thielen caught only 20 passes for 281 yards.
This year, however, undaunted by the team’s investment in Treadwell, Thielen stepped up to fill a major role. Since earning a starting position in the offense with a strong training camp, Thielen has become an explosive and reliable weapon for the Vikings, hauling in 56 receptions for 758 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Thielen’s development along with Stefon Diggs has given the Vikings something they haven’t had in well over a decade, a dynamic receiving duo. In fact, the Vikings haven’t had anything close to this level of production from a receiving tandem since the legendary days of Randy Moss and Cris Carter.
Not only could the Vikings have their first 1,000-yard receiver in 7 years, but they could have a duo producing at a rate that hasn’t been seen since Moss and Carter.
While Diggs and Thielen are obviously nowhere near the level of those two Hall of Fame talents, their production bodes very well for a team that has been held back by a lack of playmaking ability in the passing game for years.
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Diggs and Thielen have already proven that their consistency and reliability is among the best in the NFL. Both Diggs and Thielen rank in the top ten receivers in the league in catch rate, with Diggs catching an outstanding 77.2% of the balls thrown his way and Thielen only slightly behind at a rate of 74.7%. (via Vikings PR)
The pair is already emerging as one of the top receiving tandems in the league, as their 136 combined receptions are the 7th most by any two receivers on the same team in the NFL.
If the duo is going to continue to hear their names spoken along with those Moss and Carter, they will need to start converting big plays and scoring touchdowns at a higher rate. While much of the team’s downfield passing struggles can be blamed on the patchwork offensive line, 5 touchdowns between the two is definitely disappointing.
Given that Thielen is only 26 and Diggs is just 23, however, the duo will only continue to get better. The two are already the best receiving tandem that the Minnesota Vikings have had in 15 years, now the only question is just how good they could become.