Why the age of Adam Thielen is not a concern for the Vikings in 2021

(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports) Adam Thielen
(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports) Adam Thielen /

Despite turning 31-years-old in August, the age of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen should not be a cause for concern for the team in 2021.

Heading into the 2021 season, there are some notable names in NFL media circles doubting the ability of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen to be a productive part of his team’s offense.

On a recent episode of “The Fantasy Footballers” podcast, analyst Jason Moore suggested 2021 could be the year “the wheels fall off” for Thielen. Moore also expects Thielen’s touchdown numbers to fall from his 2020 total of 14, which was good enough for the third-most in the league last season. While a drop in touchdowns isn’t a crazy idea, the notion that Thielen could see his career take a nosedive is quite the stretch.

The Vikings offense has undergone significant changes over the last couple of seasons and statistical regression from Thielen can’t completely be pinned on the soon-to-be 31-year-old pass-catcher.

How concerned should the Minnesota Vikings be with the statistical regression of Adam Thielen?

Between 2017 and 2018, Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook struggled with staying on the field. He missed 17 games due to injury in that time, resulting in the Vikings having a much heavier passing attack while backups Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon tried to fill the vacancy at running back.

During that same period, Thielen was Minnesota’s top receiving option, leading the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. Despite the presence of Stefon Diggs in the offense as well, Thielen led the charge, and he paced the Vikings’ passing attack.

Thielen only took a step back in 2019 after suffering a leg injury that caused him to miss six games. The hamstring injury basically held him out of 10 games that year though, as he only had 10 targets, four receptions, and 52 yards in the final 10 contests of the 2019 season.

With Cook healthy for the majority of the team’s games in the last two years, Minnesota’s offense has balanced out to a run-first approach, and they are much less dependant on the passing attack as they were two seasons ago.

The emergence of Justin Jefferson tied the hands of the front office as well. It would be foolish for Jefferson to be the secondary receiving option when he is clearly the Vikings’ future at the position. Thielen hasn’t suffered the regression some may think he has. He’s simply adopted a new role in an offense that has changed its identity.

Last season as the secondary receiver, Thielen posted the third-highest catch percentage, the third-most receptions, and the most touchdowns of his career since becoming a starter in 2016. While it may not be the popular opinion, Thielen should be ready for another strong year with Minnesota in 2021.

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Expecting Thielen to go off for 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns in 2021 may be on the ambitious side for some. But it shouldn’t be a surprise if he is able to make another significant contribution to the Vikings’ offense next season. He will surely be a big reason behind Minnesota’s success if they earn a playoff spot in 2021.