Adam Thielen has blown up in 2017, and he’s a big part of why the Minnesota Vikings have surged to an 8-2 record and are a legitimate contender to reach the Super Bowl. Thielen scored a long touchdown on Sunday in the big showdown against the Rams, and now has 916 receiving yards and 62 catches on the season. That would put him on pace for almost 100 catches and over 1,400 yards this year.
It also puts him at 2nd in the entire NFL behind only Antonio Brown after ten games.
It hasn’t come easy for Thielen, age 27, who has taken the path far less traveled. He grew up in Minnesota as a Vikings fan, and played at Minnesota State-Mankato, which is not to be confused with the school coached by Craig T. Nelson. He did not get an invite to the NFL Combine out of school, so he attended the regional combines in place at the time, put up good numbers (4.45 in the 40) and got a look.
But still, it’s taken five years to get to this point. In year one, he was cut and placed on the practice squad in 2013. In 2014 and 2015, he got a little time at receiver, but impressed with his special teams play. Before the 2016 season, the Vikings drafted Laquon Treadwell in the first round because they needed an upgrade at receiver. Little did they know the answer was already on the roster.
It was Thielen who won a starting job last year, and he led the team in receiving yards. But that was just a prelude. Because now he’s on pace to join elite company. The only other undrafted players to have a 90 catch, 1,400 yard season? Rod Smith and Wes Welker. Thielen’s path most closely resembles Smith’s, who also came from a smaller football school and was unnoticed, played sparingly for a couple of years before breaking out at age 27.
Take Thielen lightly going forward, because this has been no fluke.