NFL Free Agency Fantasy Fallout: Vikings trade Stefon Diggs for picks, open up room for Adam Thielen to star
Things get more difficult for Kirk Cousins without Stefon Diggs, but Adam Thielen could be a No. 1 receiver again.
Stefon Diggs wanted out of Minnesota and late Monday he got his wish when the Vikings dealt him to the Buffalo Bills for a haul of picks. I broke down and what he does for Josh Allen, but now it's time to focus on what this means for the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings only threw 466 passes in 2019 as Mike Zimmer enforced his will on the play-calling of Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski is gone, but Gary Kubiak is staying, and anyone who wants to stay employed under Zimmer is going to call a run-heavy game plan. That means Kirk Cousins had to be wildly efficient to be Fantasy relevant, and for one year he was.
Cousins' 5.9% touchdown rate in 2019 was a career-best and his 8.1 yards per attempt was nearly a half yard better than his career average. I had baked in some regression off those numbers with Diggs on the team. Without Diggs it's hard to make a realistic projection of Cousins as someone you'd draft in a one-quarterback league.
Of course, the flip side of the volume equation is Adam Thielen. The Vikings were blessed with a pair of No. 1 receivers, but neither had the opportunity to produce elite numbers in an offense that runs as often as the Vikings. Thielen has averaged 9.3 yards per target in his career, and without Diggs I've bumped his target total to 132. That's enough to make Thielen a borderline No. 1 receiver by projection with top-five upside. The only concern with that projection is how much the loss of Diggs hurts his efficiency.
I would expect another update to this piece because the Vikings are very short at wide receiver. Olabisi Johnson is likely their No. 2 receiver and Chad Beebe might be their No. 3. If there's not a significant addition to the receiving corps, look for a boost to the target totals for Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith. The Vikings ran more two tight-end sets than any team in football last year.
Here are my complete Vikings projections as of March 17:
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