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Lunchbreak: NFL.com Projects Thielen as No. 5 Slot Receiver in 2019

Outside or inside, on shallow or deep routes, Adam Thielen has proven that he can be a weapon for the Vikings practically anywhere on the field.

Thielen is highly touted across the league, and most recently he was highlighted by NFL.com for his performance in the slot.

NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund projected the top 10 slot receivers for the 2019 season. She wrote the following as background to her rankings:

Between film study with coaches, computer-vision tracking and applying the right math to account for game situations and provide context, I calculated the value each player, position group and side of the ball contributes to their team's wins or losses on each snap. And last season, pass-catching win-contribution from the slot reached the highest league total value I’ve calculated in the 15 seasons included in my model.

Below, you will see my top projected slot receivers in terms of impact for the 2019 season. To model this, I included only receivers who are forecasted to take at least 50 percent of their snaps from the slot and project to be targeted at least 25 times from this alignment.

Frelund placed Thielen fifth on the list.

My impact measurement is centered on production that helps earn the most first downs and touchdowns. Thielen’s 69 slot receptions (most in the NFL in 2018) netted 31 first downs and seven touchdowns (second-most from the slot in the league). His on-ball impact ranked second-highest among slot receivers overall last season. My model projects him as the No. 12 fantasy wideout this season (in PPR formats).

Frelund’s full list, starting with her projected No. 1 slot receiver, is as follows: Tyreek Hill (Chiefs), JuJu Smith-Schuster (Steelers), Keenan Allen (Chargers), Julian Edelman (Patriots), Thielen, Cooper Kupp (Rams), Tyler Boyd (Bengals), Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals), Jarvis Landry (Browns) and Adam Humphries (Titans).

View photos of the Vikings during their first walk through and training camp practice of 2019 at TCO Performance Center.

New defensive wrinkle on horizon?

The Vikings first public practice of training camp scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday, giving fans their first look at Minnesota’s plans for 2019.

Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune listed “five things to watch for” in Vikings training camp.

While much of the talk this offseason has been about the changes in personnel along the offensive line and scheme on that side of the ball, Krammer said it will be worth eyeballing “what’s new with the defense?”

The Vikings are going to try some “out-of-the-box things” on defense, [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer said this offseason. So what will it look like? The defense took on varied looks this spring; Zimmer said some of those were early scout-team fronts to help Cousins and the offense. The Vikings defense had trouble against play-action at times last season, and maybe a wider front could help. One look that may stick is a five-man defensive front featuring ends Danielle Hunter and Stephen Weatherly as well as an interior of Everson Griffen, Shamar Stephen and Linval Joseph. Zimmer likely has plenty of tricks up his sleeve from coverages to blitzes, so don’t be surprised to see something new in training camp as Zimmer evaluates what to keep.

With teams opting to play a mostly vanilla style in preseason games to avoid putting much on game film, training camp practices could be the best spot to see what Zimmer is considering for the regular season.

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