The Minnesota Vikings entered the 2016 NFL Draft hoping to improve their offense so that they would not be in the position they found themselves last January. Their defense and running game form a strong combination, but their passing game is lacking. Evan Majewski investigates the Laquon Treadwell effect, who could be the number one receiver the Vikings have been waiting for.
A No. 1 wide receiver is someone who can do it all; this is a player who is there for his quarterback when things break down, and opens up the players around him in both the passing and running attacks by forcing double coverage in the secondary, or preventing eight-man boxes. This player is someone who gives the offense stability and freedom, things offensive coordinators will build upon and incorporate into their game plans.
Since Randy Moss’s departure in 2004, the Vikings have tried to find stability at wide receiver. For more than a decade, the Minnesota Vikings have struggled in the passing game. Players like Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice brought flashes of hope, but the Vikings organization has been missing a reliable, precise, sure-handed playmaker at wide receiver for years.
Going into the draft, Mississippi wide receiver Laquon Treadwell’s average measurables discouraged NFL teams and media. His 4.63-second 40-yard dash is certainly not something to rave about, but when you watch him play, there’s clearly more to talk about.
What He Does
Treadwell, the fourth WR taken in 2016, has the ability to win on a plethora of routes in a consistent and precise manner. Treadwell’s natural pass catching ability is a rarity for a college player. He consistently gets his body and hands in position to make nearly every catch, using excellent technique to secure the football surely and strongly, contested or not.
Speed is not the only component to success down the field. Even though Treadwell isn’t the fastest, he has shown he has the ability and understanding to get open down the field. Treadwell’s release strategies often set him up for success later in the route, where he uses technique and awareness to stack the defensive back or shield him from being in position to make a play on the ball. Many have labeled him as a red-zone threat for this reason.
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Treadwell’s underneath game is outstanding, as he can beat press coverage to eventually get inside on a slant route or under route. Treadwell’s versatility allows him to consistently win in this part of his game. His ability to catch screen passes and smoothly transition up field is second-to-none as he often slashes defenses by finding lanes and getting into those lanes efficiently.
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In addition to Treadwell’s deep and underneath routes, his ability with the intermediate route tree is a strong point of his game. He often dominates this area of the field with his power and catching ability. A mix of his physicality and football awareness allows him to win on digs and outs, curls and comebacks. He consistently finds the open zones, and executes the play with a strong catches in high traffic areas by understanding his surroundings and situation around him.
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But he does not stop there. If there is one area of Treadwell’s game that is sometimes overlooked, it’s his ability to run after the catch. Minus the raw athleticism of Dallas star Dez Bryant, Treadwell has the physical, fearless, but effective run after catch style similar to Bryant’s. Treadwell has a special ability to make the catch and immediately transition upfield, looking to break through arm tackles and gain quality yardage. His slow 40 time does not hold him back from YAC.
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Treadwell’s college tape reveals something that immediately stands out: His competitiveness and effort. This trait could stand out in Minnesota’s run game, as Adrian Peterson will look for that second-effort block in order to break into the open field as he does so often. Minnesota picked someone who is ready to take its offense forward and grow with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, being his go-to guy. Treadwell’s presence will allow players like Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph to see more opportunity within the offense as well.
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Treadwell isn’t the most explosive athlete, but he certainly gets the job done without a problem. The Vikings should be ecstatic to get a player like him with the 23rd pick. When it’s all said and done, there will be a good number of teams who likely will wish they would’ve looked his way on draft day. Look for Bridgewater to make a stride forward as the Vikings may have found their next centerpiece in the passing game for years to come.