Last year should have taught Minnesota Vikings fans some patience with first-round draft picks. Busts usually can’t – or at least shouldn’t – be declared after one season.
As the Kansas City Chiefs experienced instant returns with their first-round cornerback, Marcus Peters, in 2015, Vikings fans watched Trae Waynes struggle in the preseason and see limited time in the regular season. “Bust!” some shouted, posted and tweeted.
Maybe not so fast. Mike Zimmer’s intense crash course on cornerback play in the NFL can turn into a survival of swimming heads for young players adjusting to life in the NFL and ears near the cornerback whisperer. These days, there are signs of the techniques and assignments becoming more natural for Waynes, allowing his talent to shine through a bit more.
All that is a lead-up to this: Patience might need to be shown for this year’s first-round pick, Laquon Treadwel, too.
The first-round receiver has gone through periods of frustration in practices and those showed through in Thursday night’s preseason finale when he dropped an easy pass and immediately appeared to be chastising himself.
“Yeah. It happens to the best of us, but I don’t know. I’ve just got to bounce back, honestly. That’s about it,” he said after the game when asked if he was frustrated with himself.
It can be a lonely place. One drop can lead to another. Just ask Troy Williamson. Vikings fans don’t want to see another case like that, but Treadwell insists he isn’t worried about the drops compounding, even if it appears that has been the case more behind the scenes, too.
“No. Not one bit. Why should I be worried?” he said.
“Just not taking my eyes off the ball before I try to make my move. That’s probably the biggest thing I was doing was taking my eyes off the ball because I’m so comfortable with my hands and that leads to drops.”
You can’t blame Treadwell for lack of effort. He has put in overtime with the JUGS machine and makes one difficult catch after another there. He’s also shown he is completely capable of making the difficult catches – some contested, some in traffic, some in both circumstances.
So what’s the issue? Like Waynes last year, Treadwell may be thinking too much when in game situations. He admitted as much after the preseason finale.
“Don’t think. Just play,” he said.
“I was thinking a lot. It comes with it. It comes with every adjustment so I’ve just got to be patient and keep learning and keep getting better and keep competing.”
What Vikings fans shouldn’t expect is a blazing deep threat. There were plenty with more speed than him available in this spring’s draft, but after Teddy Bridgewater’s injury you have to wonder if the Vikings would even be able to take advantage of a consistent deep threat anymore this season.
Treadwell’s forte will be short and intermediate routes. He seems to brush off the notion that he will be simply a red zone threat, and from this vantage point we tend to agree. He has some size but isn’t among the taller receivers and he doesn’t appear to have elite jumping ability.
For now, he’s likely a tactician with shorter crossing routes and a receiver that will battle for the ball in traffic. He seems to make the tougher catches while dropping some of the easier ones.
“I see myself as a wide receiver. I’m not a red zone (guy), I’m me,” he said. “I’m going to play my game and I’m going to play at a high level. When it clicks, it clicks. Everybody will see what I’m capable of.”
Right now, it isn’t clicking. But that could change when he feels completely comfortable and is able to play with confidence.
“He dropped two balls (Thursday night) so that wasn’t good,” Zimmer said. “I thought he’s been good for the most part; he did catch one ball later on. He showed up in the game against Cincinnati a little bit more. With the quarterback situation the way it was a little bit when he was in there, it was probably a little tougher. He’s going to be a good player.”
Treadwell seems to know his preseason wasn’t good enough.
“I don’t know, honestly. I just tried to get a feel for the speed of the game and make plays, of course,” he said when asked to assess his performance. “I’ve got to keep getting better. It went pretty good, except I left some plays on the field I usually don’t leave. I’ve just got to get ready for the regular season.”
[JOIN THE VIKINGS DISCUSSION, CLICK HERE]
All of it leaves fans wondering what his role will be at the start of the regular season. He will have a new starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, to get used to in the coming weeks, but a slimmed-down, week-to-week game plan could help.
He isn’t the deep threat many thought the Vikings needed entering the draft. That role will likely go to Charles Johnson first, and then some to Stefon Diggs. So where does that leave the first-round pick?
“Just making plays – making plays and making the most of my opportunities. Staying patient and just keep making plays, and the more plays I make the more opportunities I’ll have,” he said. “I’ve got to keep making plays.”