Minnesota Vikings 2016 first round pick Laquon Treadwell had a miserable rookie season. Treadwell has a chance to prove that was a fluke after the NFL suspended Michael Floyd four games.
If it weren’t for the Minnesota Vikings‘ major collapse after a 5-0 start, Laquon Treadwell could have been the most disappointing story for the Vikings last season. Drafted 23rd overall in 2016 NFL Draft, the Vikings’ expectations were high for the receiver to make an impact on the team’s passing game.
In fact, Treadwell seemed destined to help the offense. The Vikings 2016-17 receiving core consisted of unproven receivers Adam Thielen and Charles Johnson, disappointing former first round pick Cordarrelle Patterson, and steady veteran Jarius Wright. The only wideout assured of a starting spot over Treadwell was second-year player Stefon Diggs, who broke out for 52 catches and 720 yards in his rookie season.
The big bodied receiver didn’t take advantage of the opportunity and was anything but what the team expected in his rookie season. Battling a series of injuries including a broken finger, pulled hamstring and ankle injury, Treadwell played in only nine games, starting one, with a grand total of 1 catch on 3 targets for 15 yards in 2016. A major disappointment and he knew it too, telling the Star Tribune after the season:
"“The whole season was disappointing for me. I don’t think I helped the offense at all.”"
Yet, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has expressed optimism in his young wideout as did GM Rick Spielman. In Mike Zimmer’s end-of-the-season press conference, the Vikings coach stated:
"“I do think Treadwell is going to be a good player. I know that he had a rough season. I see too many good qualities from him to believe that he’s not going to be a good player. He’s tough. He works his rear end off. He’s good in and out of cuts, catches the ball good.”"
When Cordarrelle Patterson was signed away by the Oakland Raiders after his most successful season as a wide receiver for the Vikings, the Vikings’ front office seemed to show further confidence in Treadwell’s development heading into his second year. That was until the Vikings signed Minnesota-native Michael Floyd to a one-year deal on May 10.
After the Floyd signing, many felt that Floyd would hurt Treadwell’s opportunity to play in his second season. Others speculated that the team’s confidence in Treadwell wasn’t as advertised. Some were even willing to put the “bust” label on the young wide receiver. Essentially, the question marks surrounding Treadwell were at an all-time high.
In OTAs and minicamp, Treadwell began to answer some of those questions. Starting alongside Diggs and Thielen, Treadwell was given rave reviews. One of those reviews was from Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who told ESPN:
"“He’s had a great, in my opinion, five-and-a-half weeks. He came back and he was really on point with what he’s supposed to be doing mentally. He’s been out here competing and doing a nice job running routes and catching the ball. Understanding where he fits in the running game and who to block. To this point, we’ve been really pleased with his progress based on a year ago.”"
With training camp to come, Treadwell holds the advantage over Floyd as the Vikings’ third wideout, but there are no guarantees at this point. Although Floyd experienced an off-year in 2016, Floyd brings more explosiveness, as well as a track record of success. With the Arizona Cardinals, he produced two 800-plus yard seasons and one 1,000 yard season. At 27 years old, there’s no reason to believe he doesn’t have the ability to play a starting role. That is if he can get his career back on track, mainly off the field.
Enter in Treadwell’s big opportunity. The NFL just suspended Floyd for the first four games of the 2017 season as a result of violating the substance abuse policy. This gives Treadwell an early advantage over Floyd as the Vikings third receiver, which is essentially a starting spot.
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Even so, Treadwell has to continue to show that he’s worthy of the role to start the season. The Vikings have Jarius Wright, Isaac Fruechte, as well as 2017 draft picks Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley vying to improve their position on the receiving depth chart. Coach Zimmer is also not the type to just give a starting position away to a young player without proving he’s ready. But, Treadwell is likely going to get every opportunity to win the job and he’s going to need to do something with it.
With reports saying that Treadwell is 100 percent healthy, there’s no excuse for last season’s first round pick to not perform this time around. Given that his main competition for the spot is out for the first four games, he has a big opportunity to make his mark. If he produces, he should be able to hang onto the position once Floyd returns and prove that last season was a fluke.
When I say “produces,” let’s not expect the second-year receiver to break out into one of the league’s best in his second season. Behind Diggs and Thielen on the depth chart, you can only expect so much. Yet, the former first rounder needs to show signs that he can play in the NFL. In my opinion, that means producing at least 40-60 catches for 600-800 yards. Those are feats that shouldn’t be too out of reach.
But, if he doesn’t produce, look for Floyd to replace him and the “bust” labels to rightfully come out on the Treadwell. It may be unfair, but that’s part of the expectations that come with being a first round pick.
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