When your football team is 6-2 at the midway point of the season despite (potentially) glaring questions at the quarterback position, you have no shortage of candidates for a midseason team MVP. We’ll do a few site-wide polls over the next day or two here to see who you folks think some players that deserve midseason recognition are, but this is one man’s opinion on the subject.
For a team that is relying on their third-string quarterback (essentially) to run the offense, you need players that can consistently do what they need to do to help move the football. Dalvin Cook was doing that for the Vikings’ offense, but he went down midway through the Week 4 loss to the Detroit Lions and has been gone for the season. Without Cook, the most consistent threat on offense has been a guy who the Vikings signed after a local combine in 2013 and wasn’t really viewed as much more than an afterthought.
Do you know how many wide receivers in the National Football League have had at least five catches in all of their team’s games so far this season? Just one. . .and it isn’t Antonio Brown or A.J. Green or Julio Jones or any of the “big” names. It’s Thielen, who has had exactly five catches in six of Minnesota’s eight games this season, along with two nine-catch performances. He’s only had one game where he went over 100 yards, but he’s also had two 98-yard games and one 97-yard game so far in 2017.
At the midway point of the season, Thielen is fourth in the NFL in receptions with 48, and trails only Brown in receiving yardage. Yes, he only has one touchdown reception thus far, but I have a feeling that’s eventually going to start matching his reception and yardage production in that category, and start doing so in very short order.
Meanwhile, with Stefon Diggs battling some injury issues after getting off to a blazing start and Kyle Rudolph having a bit of a down year compared to expectations, Thielen has been consistent. He’s getting open and giving Case Keenum a target that can consistently bring in tough catches and move the chains. Honestly, it seems like Thielen has at least one or two “how in the hell did he catch that ball” receptions every week. He’s among the NFL leaders in “contested catches” as well, meaning that even when he’s not “open,” Keenum (and Sam Bradford, when he was healthy) has enough confidence in Thielen to put the ball up there and believe that he’s going to come down with it.
There have been a lot of great performances by individual members of the Minnesota Vikings over the first half of this 2017 NFL season. But, in my opinion, Thielen has been the team’s midseason Most Valuable Player. Yes, there are a ton of players, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, that might deserve recognition here as well. But with the quarterback issues this team has had, as well as some of the injuries on the offensive side of the ball, it’s kind of scary to imagine what this offense would look like without the guy from Detroit Lakes that Rick Spielman and company took a flier on four years ago.