There are times when the marriage between a player and an organization make too much sense. In the weeks leading up to the 2016 draft, the one name that seemed to be linked most often with the Minnesota Vikings was wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.
Viewed by many as the top receiver coming into the draft, Treadwell was the fourth receiver to get selected. But from the Vikings perspective, he was the ideal match they were looking for.
“We feel what he’s going to bring to our offense is that large catching radius, a guy that’s very physical – maybe the best run blocker I’ve seen in years coming out (of college), Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. “Also, he can make big-time catches with his big hands and catching radius. He’s a great kid – very humble, yet very driven. Playing in the SEC at such a high level and being so productive against probably the top athletes in the country speaks volumes to what his physical ability is.”
There was some thought that when highly touted linebacker Myles Jack was still on the board that head coach Mike Zimmer might push to add yet another UCLA linebacker to his team.
While wide receivers aren’t always known as the toughest players on a team – some of them are referred to as divas – Zimmer feels Treadwell brings the mindset of a nasty defensive player to the offensive side of the ball.
“This kid is a lot like I’m trying to build this football team,” Zimmer said. “He’s a tough, physical player that’s a heck of a competitor. We obviously took him as a receiver, but he’s the best blocking receiver I’ve ever seen. That was another added bonus with him as well.”
Spielman and Zimmer were of like mind in their assessment of Treadwell, who, at 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds, is an imposing presence lining up against smaller cornerbacks.
The Vikings weren’t alone in their strong feelings about Treadwell. Spielman said he received four calls from other teams looking to get into the Vikings’ spot, but he wasn’t about to budge when the team was on the clock and had a player they coveted in sight.
“When you watch him play on the field, he has an edge to him,” Spielman said. “He’s a heck of a football player and loves to play the game. Those are the type of players we’re trying to get in here.”
Spielman was no stranger to Treadwell. He attended his pro day at Ole Miss, visited with him at the NFL Scouting Combine and he was part of the top-30 visits the team had at Winter Park prior to the draft.
He has drawn comparisons to some of the elite physical wide receivers of recent years, guys like Michael Irvin and Anquan Boldin. Spielman went so far as to bring up former Bills receiver Eric Moulds.
There were a lot of things to like about Treadwell as both a player and a glove fit in the Minnesota offensive scheme.
“As we sat and talked with the coaches, the biggest thing was his catching radius, the ability to catch in traffic, to go up and get jump balls and the physicality of him as a receiver getting into and out of his cuts,” Spielman said. “I went to a lot pro days and watched the receivers. You can just see that he generates a lot of power when he’s getting off the line of scrimmage. I can put a highlight reel together and I know Adrian Peterson is probably going to be very excited about how this guy plays the game and blocks at the edge. But he’s a receiver that plays with a chip on his shoulder in all phases of the game.”
Coming from the SEC, the Vikings got a chance to see Treadwell go up against some of college football’s top defensive backs. Given the high visibility of the SEC, Zimmer said that was an added selling point.
“I think it’s important when you’re picking in the first round that you go against good competition,” Zimmer said. “The bright lights don’t affect them. Sometimes smaller school (players) have a little harder time with that.”
At the end of a long wait for both the Vikings and Treadwell, they wound up together and the Vikings couldn’t have been happier with the end result.
They got they guy they wanted and, after making most of their early selections in the first two years of the Spielman-Zimmer regime, they took an offensive player who plays like a defender, which brought a smile to Zimmer’s face.
“He’s a big-time competitor,” Zimmer said. “I like competitors. I like tough guys. I like physical guys. It doesn’t have to be just on defense. It can be all over the football field. It’s an attitude that we’re trying to present here with the Vikings. He has an attitude about him.”