It is not easy for a player to make it into the NFL as it is, and it becomes even more difficult coming from a Division-II program. This is the uphill battle that Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen faces during training camp this season.
After not being selected out of Minnesota State-Mankato during the 2013 NFL Draft, Thielen attended a rookie tryout and evaluation session at Winter Park with the Vikings last season. While Thielen did end up being cut by the team, he did make a good enough impression to be signed to their practice squad.
During his senior season at Minnesota State-Mankato, Thielen recorded 74 catches for 1,176 yards and eight touchdowns, recording at least 90 receiving yards in seven of the 12 games he played in.
While Thielen seemingly must not have showcased enough talent in high school to be awarded with a Division-I scholarship, he certainly has NFL-caliber tools. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound receiver reportedly ran a 4.46 40-yard dash last season, which would have been good enough for 13th among wide receivers at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
Thielen will have an opportunity to crack the Vikings’ 53-man roster this season as a No. 5 or 6 receiver, depending on how many receivers the team opts to keep on the roster. While this may appear to be a long shot for the unheralded wide receiver, Thielen has opened some very important eyes this offseason. When asked to name a player who has progressed from last year, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman responded with Thielen’s name, noting his work ethic, passion and drive.
Thielen received some second-team reps at wide receiver during OTAs, but spent most of his time on the third team. He reportedly has developed good chemistry with rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, which could factor into whether the Vikings decide to keep him on their roster.
Although wide receiver is his position on offense, Thielen has reportedly been involved with a group of players competing for the kick and punt returning positions. Other players involved in this group include Marcus Sherels, Jerick McKinnon and Erik Lora.
With Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright and Jerome Simpson locked in as the Vikings’ top-four wide receivers, Thielen will compete against Josh Cooper, Kamar Jorden, Rodney Smith and Lora for the final one or two spots on the wide receiver depth chart.
Chances may be slim that Thielen makes the Vikings’ 53-man roster this September, but he has certainly earned the right to compete.