What does a two-time Pro Bowl receiver do on a fall Sunday when he’s not playing football?
If he’s Adam Thielen, he’s plopped on the couch watching other receivers work at their craft.
“I really had a fun time Sunday,” said the Vikings’ No. 1 receiver. “My wife kind of let me enjoy the one day of the year that I get to sit there and watch football.”
Thielen watches a tad more intently than the average fantasy leaguer. He watches like a guy who’s tied atop the league with seven touchdown receptions. Or a self-made overachiever who became a second-team All-Pro in 2017.
“What I look for is guys doing things with their releases at the top of the route and then making these catches,” he said. “It’s really just fun to watch as a fan to see what other guys are doing around the league, what kind of schemes offensive coordinators are doing and just seeing what guys are doing to have success.
“It was … just kind of stressless to be able to evaluate other guys and see what I could maybe implement in my game.”
Sunday’s Vikings-Packers game at Lambeau Field doesn’t look like much of a matchup. The Packers are 5-1 and thrashed the 1-5 Vikings back in Week 1.
But Pro Football Focus sure likes the receivers in this game. Three of its four highest-rated receivers will suit up.
Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson checks in at No. 1 in the league with a PFF rating of 90.7. No. 2 is Packers receiver Davante Adams (90.3). No. 4 is Thielen (89.7), who ranks one spot ahead of the Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins, a three-time first-team All-Pro who leads the NFL in catches (57) and yards receiving (704).
There’s no doubt we’re witnessing a golden age for NFL quarterbacks young, old and in between. But let’s not forget the receiver position, which also is in great hands — quite literally — and getting better with one of the best rookie classes ever.
The modern receiver comes in all different shapes and sizes of greatness. From 5-10, 185-pound Chiefs jitterbug Tyreek Hill up to Seahawks giant D.K. Metcalf, the 6-4, 229-pounder whose freakish speed gave us the league’s hustle play of the year on Sunday Night Football.
According to NFL NextGen stats, Metcalf covered 108.8 yards en route to robbing Cardinals safety Budda Baker of a 98-yard pick six. Baker reached a speed of 21.27 miles per hour but came up 8 yards short of the goal line because Metcalf — the NFL’s leader in yards per reception (21.6) — topped out at 22.64 mph. Arizona then turned the ball over on downs.
“When they show the all-22 or the wide view of right when the interception happened and [Metcalf] taking off, that was pretty impressive,” Thielen said. “Probably the most impressive thing is a lot of guys wouldn’t have even gone after him like that right away. It just shows his character of how much he cares about the game.”
Thielen did a nice little sidestep when asked to name the receiver he likes watching most of all.
“There’s so many, honestly, I can’t pick one,” he said. “But, man, I love watching Davante’s releases. You look at D.K. last night and Julio [Jones] and [Calvin] Ridley. There’s so many — Keenan Allen — that it’s hard to pick.”
The Vikings’ young cornerbacks probably don’t enjoy watching Adams’ releases quite as much as Thielen does. Not after Adams torched the Vikings for 14 catches in Week 1 to tie a franchise record set by Hall of Famer Don Hutson back in 1942.
Adams was targeted 17 times in that game. He had 156 yards and two touchdowns. Cornerback Holton Hill gave up six of those receptions, including a touchdown and a 40-yard deep ball.
Adams missed three weeks because of a hamstring injury. But he showed on Sunday that he’s back to full strength, catching 13 of 16 balls thrown his way for a career-high 196 yards and two touchdowns.
“Davante has been terrific on crossing routes, terrific on the deep throws, versus press, versus off, he catches the ball on the sideline,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “And obviously he’s got a quarterback who can do all of those things to get him the ball. And they’re doing a good job scheming him as well. They move him all over the field.
“We’ll obviously know where he is, and we’re going to have to do our very best to try to challenge him.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.