Minnesota Vikings

Adam Thielen is the NFL’s best receiver

The Minnesota Vikings have the league’s best wide receiver in Adam Thielen, something he continually proving on a weekly basis.

Ladies and gentleman; we have a new No.1 at wide receiver. For the past several seasons, there has been a debate about who is the best receiver in the NFL. Depending on the year, you could have made a case for Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown or DeAndre Hopkins. All four have unique skill sets and are worthy of the top spot. And depending on the game(s) you watched, you may have a different opinion weekly.

But through seven weeks of the 2018 season, the best receiver in the league has been Adam Thielen of the Minnesota Vikings. And it’s hasn’t been close. Just how dominant has Thielen been this season? He has the most receptions ever through the first seven games (67). He’s also tied the NFL record with seven straight games of at least 100 receiving yards. Needless to say, he’s leading the league in receiving yards and receptions.

None of this should surprise you because this is what Adam Thielen has been doing for the last 25 games of his career. Since 2017, only four receivers have more yards, but all have seen more targets and have a significantly lesser catch percentage than Thielen. He has been the most efficient receiver in the NFL, despite playing with three different quarterbacks in the same time frame.

Thielen burst onto the national spotlight at the end of the 2016 season, where he had a 202-yard receiving day versus Green Bay on Christmas Eve. Since that game, he has been in the conversation as one of the best receivers in the league.

Despite Thielen’s hot start, there are still many myths about his game. Some people call him just a slot receiver. I’ve heard announcers and commentators compare him to Wes Welker and Julian Edelman because of his skin color, despite the massive size difference. There are others out there that don’t even believe he is the best receiver on the team.

The fact of the matter is that there is nothing he can’t do. Take a look at his receiving chart for the 2018 season via the NFL’s Next Gen Stats and see if you notice anything.

Simply put, there is nowhere Thielen can’t excel. Whether it’s in the slot or on either side of the field as an outside receiver, Thielen is going to beat defensive backs. He is in such a zone right now that he is nearly unstoppable.

On Sunday, Thielen was outstanding, roasting the Jets’ talented secondary for 110 yards and a score on nine catches. In New York, he displayed every single trait that you would want from the best receiver in the league. Let’s take a look at a few of his receptions from this contest.

First and foremost, we begin with Thielen’s touchdowns on Sunday. Thielen lined up on the outside against off-coverage, but quickly gained a step on the defender. At about the 15-yard line, he started to track the ball and put himself in a position where he could make a play on the ball. Most importantly, Thielen slowed down in the end zone, shielded the defender from the ball using his body and then made the catch. You couldn’t have played this any better.

One of the great things about Thielen is his versatility. While he can thrive on the outside, Thielen can torch defenders from the slot as well. When he is in the slot, there is no better receiver in the league. Because of his size and athleticism, he is nearly impossible to defend. Take a look at this route versus veteran cornerback Morris Claiborne from Sunday:

While it’s true that Thielen is an excellent route runner, he is a fantastic athlete as well. On the route above, Thielen was able to beat Claiborne off the line of scrimmage with his quickness. Then, he used his speed to get to the sideline before the safety had time to get there to make a play. This was one of his most impressive plays from Sunday.

Aside from getting open consistently, Thielen is a quarterback’s dream because of the way he plays without the ball. Thielen understands route concepts and coverages, but he also does the little things so well. For example, here is a route/catch from Thielen on Sunday in which he creates separation in the middle of the field, but works back to the quarterback to secure the catch. It’s those type of things that make him such a special player.

It’s nothing spectacular or unusual, but it’s these little plays that make all the difference between a great receiver and the best receiver in football.

The final play I want to highlight is Thielen’s “record-breaking” reception. Much like the play we just reviewed, it’s nothing too exciting. Thielen runs a corner route versus zone coverage, but due to his size and build-up speed, he was able to make the reception before the defender could even get close to defending it.

Thielen may not have the star power or “flash” of some of the other receivers in the league. But make no mistake about it, he is the receiver in the NFL this season. He is putting up historic numbers and is doing so while sharing the stage with another top receiver in Stefon Diggs. Thielen is a star and is the reason the Vikings are a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2018. If he can continue to put up numbers at this rate, then he will be the consensus No.1 receiver by the end of the season. But in my opinion, he already is.

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