As a fantasy football owner, you may be wondering if you can truly trust Adam Thielen in your starting lineup for Week 4 after everything that has transpired over the past several months. Thielen has been embroiled in controversies around his shocking suspension, release from the Vikings, and questionable behaviors.
While these off-field concerns are certainly troubling, the good news is that Thielen‘s on-field production appears to be rebounding. His stats and usage point to Thielen returning solid WR3/Flex value against the Cardinals this week. Here is a detailed breakdown of the key factors surrounding Thielen‘s situation to help you make the right start/sit decision for your fantasy team in Week 4.
Addressing the Thielen Controversy Upfront
Before diving into the stats, let‘s briefly recap the controversies impacting Thielen‘s reputation lately. Thielen spent 8 seasons with the Vikings, making 2 Pro Bowls and posting three-straight 1000+ yard campaigns from 2016-2018.
However, his production dipped in 2019-2020, and this March Minnesota released him in a cost-cutting move. Shortly after Thielen signed a 1-year deal with the Panthers, the NFL handed down a 4-game suspension for violation of the substance abuse policy stemming from a 2022 incident.
Thielen apologized on radio shows, expressing regret over the situation. But fantasy owners are right to question if off-field behaviors are a cause for concern regarding his focus and reliability. While these remain valid worries, the trends suggest Thielen is poised to deliver solid fantasy production in Week 4.
Thielen‘s Usage and Output Rebounding Steadily
Since returning from suspension in Week 4, Thielen is averaging nearly 10 targets per game. He‘s hauled in 21 of 30 targets for 240 yards and 2 TDs. For context, let‘s examine how that usage compares to his last two seasons with the Vikings:
The target volume indicates Thielen has re-earned an integral role in the Panthers‘ weekly game plan. His catch rate remains solid, and he‘s averaging markedly higher yards per game than 2020-2021. This usage aligns more closely with his peak 2016-2018 production.
"Thielen‘s talent didn‘t just disappear overnight," says fantasy expert Matthew Berry. "He‘s showing he can still produce when given the opportunity."
Matchup Sets Up Well for Thielen to Keep Rolling
You may be hesitant to fully buy in on Thielen given his slow start to 2023. But Week 4 presents an extremely favorable matchup against a struggling Cardinals pass defense surrendering the 4th-most fantasy points to WRs.
|Stat||Cardinals Pass Defense Rank|
|Passing Yards Allowed||30th|
|Comp. % Allowed||32nd|
|Pass TDs Allowed||32nd (15)|
|WR Fantasy Points Allowed||4th-Most|
Arizona‘s secondary has been decimated by injuries. Top CB Byron Murphy is likely out again, leaving huge holes for Thielen to exploit both underneath and downfield. He should see high-value targets this week.
"Thielen is set up beautifully to feast on an overmatched Cardinals secondary," explains fantasy expert Justin Boone. "He‘s a high-floor WR3 and carries major upside in this dream matchup."
What the Experts are Saying about Thielen for Week 4
Here‘s a sampling of opinions from top fantasy football experts on inserting Thielen into starting lineups this week:
Mike Tagliere (FantasyPros): "I‘m cautiously optimistic about Thielen this week. We know the talent is there, and Arizona‘s defense is extremely vulnerable. He‘s a solid WR3."
Justin Boone (The Score): "This is the perfect spot to tap into Thielen‘s upside. He should deliver WR3 value at a minimum."
Matthew Berry (ESPN): "Thielen is trending toward becoming a regular starter. I‘m comfortable plugging him in given the plus matchup."
Liz Loza (Yahoo!): "A healthy dose of targets should be coming Thielen‘s way against Arizona‘s hapless secondary. He‘s back to being a weekly starter."
The consensus is clear. If you‘ve been wavering on Thielen as a WR3/Flex, Week 4 is the time to get him back in lineups to capitalize on the ideal matchup.
Why Thielen‘s Production Should be Sustainable
For Thielen to truly regain reliability as a weekly fantasy starter, he‘ll need to sustain quality production. Here are some positive signs pointing to continued fantasy success beyond Week 4:
Target Share: Thielen owns a 23% share of Carolina‘s targets, a larger role than during his Vikings decline. As Baker Mayfield‘s top downfield playmaker, this volume should persist.
QB Rapport: Despite his struggles, Mayfield is pushing the ball to Thielen frequently. Their connection has strengthened since Week 1.
Situations Favor Passing Game: Carolina‘s leaky defense constantly leaves them in shootouts. Thielen should see ample usage in comeback game scripts.
Favorable Schedule: Beyond Week 4, five of the next seven matchups are against bottom-12 pass defenses. Opportunity for production will be there.
As long as Thielen maintains a sizable target share in Carolina‘s high-volume passing offense, he is primed for steady WR3/Flex value moving forward. The controversy and suspension in his past need not cloud Thielen‘s bright outlook.
The Verdict: Get Thielen in Your Lineup as a High-Upside WR3/Flex
Given the facts surrounding usage, matchup, expert consensus, and situation, you can feel confident starting Thielen in Week 4 expecting high-end WR3 production with WR2 upside. Concerns about his controversy and suspension should be set aside this week. Carolina and Baker Mayfield recognize the value Thielen brings to their offense, as evidenced by his heavy involvement since returning.
Ride Thielen while he‘s hot against Arizona‘s porous defense. Their inability to generate pressure or cover downfield almost guarantees Thielen some big plays on Sunday. Consider him a rock-solid WR3/Flex option who could easily deliver Top 15-20 numbers this week. Get him in fantasy lineups and watch those points rack up!