Fantasy Football: Lean on Justin Jefferson if Vikings’ Adam Thielen can’t play

No one likes it when a star player is sidelined. And in the chaos of 2020, the element of COVID-19 elevates the possibility of losing a stud from your fantasy roster.

Already, there is worry regarding the Ravens-Steelers game, pushed from Thursday to Sunday to now, tentatively Tuesday, based on multiple positive tests by the Ravens. There also are issues with the Broncos, who are scheduled to host the Saints. Relying on players involved in games that could possibly be postponed is dicey.

And we also have concern about receiver Adam Thielen’s availability for the Vikings. Entering a juicy matchup against the Panthers, Thielen was set for yet another game with some stout stats. But what if he doesn’t clear protocol in time?

Well, the obvious assumption is standout rookie Justin Jefferson will inherit more targets, which is certainly likely. But bear in mind, it also means he likely will draw more coverage — be it double-teams or shadow coverage from a top corner.

Yet, according to Pro Football Focus, the Panthers rarely have shadowed receivers this season — doing so in just two games. In those games, three different receivers were shadowed — two by Panthers CB Rasul Douglas. Combined, those receivers — Allen Robinson in Week 6 and Mike Evans in Week 10 — had seven catches for 93 yards and one touchdown on 16 targets. That isn’t terrible, but it’s also below those receivers’ averages.

Hence, an increase in volume for Jefferson could be offset by less efficiency brought on by getting more coverage attention. This shouldn’t affect your Jefferson decision: If you have him, play him.

If Thielen is out, what it would do is create opportunity for someone other than just Jefferson to contribute in the passing game.

We know the Panthers are a feisty bunch, and they get starting QB Teddy Bridgewater back after he missed last week with a knee injury. They pushed the Chiefs to the brink, went stride-for-stride with the Saints, took care of the Cardinals fairly easily and traded blows with the Raiders in Week 1.

Thus, we don’t expect the Vikings to pull way out in front and focus solely on Dalvin Cook to grind out the clock. So who else can contribute on the Minnesota side besides Cook and Jefferson?

If you’re scrambling for a WR or looking for a deep option to provide separation in DFS roster construction, look to Olabisi Johnson. “Bisi” is offered at minimum salary at DraftKings ($3,000) and barely above minimum at FanDuel ($4,600).

Plus, based on percentage of snaps taken at particular spots, specifically the left WR spot, Bisi likely would face off most often against Troy Pride Jr., who is PFF’s single worst-rated CB slated to start this week.

Now, if Thielen clears protocol and gets the green light to play, he is clearly a must start, and Jefferson’s upside gets, er, even uppier. Johnson, meanwhile, becomes a Four Seasons Total Landscaping-level fantasy option.

So monitor Thielen’s status. If you’re in a bind with a disposable player on your roster, make a speculative add of Johnson.

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