by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Last year fantasy owners were a little spoiled by the production of Minnesota’s wide receivers, as both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen put up solid numbers:
- Stefon Diggs (14 games) – 64 receptions for 849 yards and 8 TD
- Adam Thielen (16 games) – 91 receptions for 1,276 yards and 4 TD
With the team bringing in Kirk Cousins in the offseason the expectations and hype will only grow, but is there a chance that both ultimately fall far short of expectations? There’s actually a lot of factors working against them:
1) The return of Dalvin Cook
You would think that the dynamic Cook, who was averaging 4.8 yards per carry prior to his injury, would help to open things up for the passing game. However he’s going to get ample touches, both on the ground and through the air, and there are only so many balls to go around. Granted they did lose Jerick McKinnon, who had 201 touches last season (150 carries and 51 receptions), so Cook’s return may not be the biggest negative but it’s still something to monitor as he could become the focal point.
2) The addition of Kirk Cousins
How could an upgrade at QB ultimately be a negative? Just look at Washington’s target leaders over the past few seasons:
- 2015 – Jordan Reed (114)
- 2016 – Pierre Garcon (116)
- 2017 – Jamison Crowder (104)
As a comparison, Thielen had 143 targets last season. If Cousins isn’t going to zero in on any one target, instead spreading the ball around, it’s going to have a negative impact on Thielen’s production (and also Diggs’). That could loom larger with the return of Dalvin Cook as well.
3) The departure of Pat Shurmur
Shurmur left the Vikings to become the Giants’ head coach this offseason. Prior to him taking over as the offensive coordinator in November of 2016 Thielen was a little used option under Norv Turner:
- 2014 – 14 targets
- 2015 – 18 targets
He was seeing more action in 2016, though his two biggest target totals came after Turner resigned. It’s a little bit of a different story for Diggs, who played a big role under both offensive coordinators and should continue to be the go to option on the outside.
It remains to be seen how the new offense will operate, but you can’t argue against the potential risk.
There are a lot of factors at play in Minnesota, and they all seem to be working against Thielen more than Diggs. How many targets will he get (both due to the return to health for Dalvin Cook and the change in quarterback)? Will the new offensive focus on him as much as they did in 2017?
At this point we’d far prefer Stefon Diggs, though he always carries health concerns and also faces some of the same questions. We aren’t saying to avoid them completely, but don’t overlook the potential issues facing them as you make your plans for 2018.
Source – ESPN
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 preseason rankings: