Don’t look now, but Adam Thielen is slowly winding down his career as an NFL wide receiver. Thielen turned 32 on Monday and is the fifth-oldest player on the Minnesota Vikings roster behind Andrew DePaolo, Kirk Cousins, Harrison Smith, and Patrick Peterson.
Thielen was born on the same day as Green Bay Packers WR Randall Cobb — August 22nd, 1990.
And when Thielen gets back to regular-season work in 20 days, he’ll look to shatter some norms. Aside from players like Jerry Rice, Larry Fitzgerald, and Tim Brown, for example, wide receivers tend to slow down around this age. But Thielen hopes to avoid any of that age-related slowdown fiddlededee as the Vikings welcome a “pass-first” offense for the first time since 2009.
At age 32, Thielen can change the age narrative in a couple of ways. Foremost, just one wide receiver in Vikings history has tallied 1,000+ receiving yards in a season at age 32 or older — Cris Carter. Neither Ahmad Rashad, Jake Reed, nor Anthony Carter could accomplish the feat. Rashad and Anthony Carter came reasonably close — Rashad at age 32 in 1981 with 884 yards and Anthony Carter at age 33 in 1993 with 775 yards — but couldn’t cross the 1,000-yard plateau.
For Thielen, tabulating 1,000 receiving yards would end a drought. Somehow, Thielen hasn’t achieved the mark since 2018 — Kirk Cousins’ first season with the Vikings. The Minnesota State alumnus has completed a unique career transition where he’s a touchdown magnet more than a “yards guy.” In fact, since the start of 2019, Thielen ranks fourth in the NFL for receiving touchdowns but 41st in receiving yards.
Thielen has recorded back-to-back seasons of double-digit touchdowns, with 14 in 2020 and 10 in 2021. Touchdowns are another statistic that Thielen can defy the age-related odds. If Thielen registers 10 or more receiving touchdowns in 2022, he’d become the 15th player in NFL history to do so. These are the men who have grabbed 10+ touchdowns in a season at age 32 or older:
- Tim Brown (2000)
- Cris Carter (1997, 1998, 1999)
- Irving Fryar (1996)
- Joey Galloway (2005)
- Marvin Harrison (2004, 2005, 2006)
- Drew Hill (1988)
- Joe Horn (2004)
- Don Maynard (1967, 1968)
- Randy Moss (2009)
- Terrell Owens (2006, 2007, 2008)
- Jerry Rice (1994, 1995)
- Kyle Rote (1960)
- John Stallworth (1984)
- Wes Welker (2013)
Otherwise, should Thielen encounter injuries and thus follows the path of thousands of “old” wide receivers before him, the Vikings would lean heavily on the upstart WR3 K.J. Osborn and possibly second-year wideout Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
The over-under by Vegas for Thielen’s receiving yards in 2022 is set at 750.5. Thielen’s touchdown over-under is 7.5.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).