By just about any standard, including his own, Laquon Treadwell’s rookie season was a disappointing one.
After the season, he characterized it as “frustrating” and “disappointing.”
“I mean, the whole season. I don’t think I helped the offense at all, so that’s my offseason goal,” he said.
The Minnesota Vikings made Treadwell their first-round draft pick last year, but for a variety of reasons he made a very minimal impact in his initial NFL season.
He was active for nine games but played sparingly, was only targeted three times and managed one midseason catch for 15 yards. Despite the limited production from a player that produced at an extremely high level in the SEC, it was a season of unfulfilled expectations.
Even so, Pat Shurmur, who took over the offensive coordinator duties in after seven games, believes there were some encouraging signs behind the scenes.
“I think he did some really good things and some of it unfortunately, everybody didn’t get a chance to see,” Shurmur said. “He came in and he kind of had little nagging things that kept him from getting in there full-time early, but when he got in the games, the things he did well when he got in the games he didn’t get targeted a bunch of times, but he blocked well and he competed and that’s really the starting point for a young player.”
After setting or tying 12 University of Mississippi records – including single-season receptions (82), single-season receiving yards (1,153), single-season receiving touchdowns (11) and career catches (202), the Vikings made Treadwell the 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
But an ankle injury suffered in college continued to bother the receiver well into his first NFL season. Once he got past that, however, it didn’t turn the tide of his rookie campaign.
He saw just four offensive snaps in the first four games combined. Despite having 34 snaps in a Week 12 contest against the Detroit Lions, he finished the season with only 80 plays on offense.
That might not bode well for a big jump in 2017 if Shurmur’s words are analyzed.
“I think if a guy has had a chance to play a little bit in Year 1 and get out there on Sundays and compete and get a taste of it, even if it’s as a role player, then you see that improvement between Year 1 and Year 2 kick in,” Shurmur said. “Sometimes, a player that may be relegated to practice squad or didn’t get a chance to compete, Year 2 is not quite as significant.”
Treadwell played in less than 8 percent of the total offensive plays, so it remains to be seen how much he can build on that little experience. Certainly, the Vikings would like to see a big jump in his production and Treadwell’s psyche appeared in need of a confidence boost throughout much of his rookie year.
While he worked hard at improving his hands with extra and consistent post-practice work, he appeared to get discouraged about his lack of opportunity. But Shurmur believes this will be a “critical” offseason for him.
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“He’s going to be like any young player that’s going from Year 1 to Year 2. This is going to be an offseason that’s very critical. A lot highly drafted players come in and they’re coming off of that circuit and then all the sudden they’re drafted and they’re thrown in,” Shurmur said. “He’s had a chance now to go through the process once. He’ll have a feel for what it’s going to feel like and we’re anticipating he’s going to come back and be raring to go and make great improvements.”
At Ole Miss, Treadwell never caught fewer than two passes in any of the 35 games he played. He wasn’t able to catch even two passes in his entire rookie season in the NFL, making 2017 a big year for not only his development and production, but also for his confidence.
“You’ve just got to get in the game. You’ve just got to get in the game, man. Everything else, the plays, will come,” Treadwell said. “And I feel like that’s the same thing for every player here. You get in the game, you start doing what you’re used to doing.”