Laquon Treadwell sounded pretty honest in January when he characterized his rookie season as “frustrating” and “disappointing.”
Others might take a harsher critique after the first-round draft pick caught only one pass, but Treadwell’s coaches with the Minnesota Vikings believe he has a bright future.
“I think he did some really good things and some of it unfortunately, everybody didn’t get a chance to see,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said last month.
Everybody got a chance to see what Treadwell was capable of in college at Mississippi, where he set or tied 12 school records, including single-season receptions (82), single-season receiving yards (1,153), single-season receiving touchdowns (11) and career catches (202). After that, the Vikings made Treadwell the 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
But Treadwell has been even slower to yield production on the field than the previous receiver the Vikings drafted in the first round, Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson had 45 catches for 469 yards as a rookie and 33 receptions for 384 yards in his second season. The Vikings barely used Patterson on offensive in his third year, citing a lack of route discipline, as he produced only two catches in 2015 before catching a career-high 52 passes last year.
So is the development of Treadwell meeting some of the same challenges as developing Patterson?
“In some ways, yes; in some ways, no,” head coach Mike Zimmer said when posed that question at the NFL owners meetings this week. “I think Laquon has a better understanding of things. I don’t think he quite understands some of the subtleties he needs. I think he’s got the basics down good.”
But Treadwell’s growth was also stunted by an ankle injury from college that troubled him until about halfway through his rookie season. By that time, the pecking order in the receiving corps had been pretty well established with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen taking the lead roles and Patterson next in line, with Charles Johnson also contributing on a limited basis. This year, Patterson is in Oakland and Johnson is in Carolina.
There is, however, one encouraging sign for Treadwell in this early stage of the offseason.
“I think he’s healthy because he was just in last week. I think he’s going to have a good year,” Zimmer said. “He’s still learning some of the pro game, too, and understanding some of those things. But he’s going to be a good player.”
Treadwell was never really able to show what he could do in game situations. He played only 80 snaps on offense the entire season, some of it due to how much he was limited as his ankle recovered.
During several junctures, the frustration was obvious.
“A lot of injuries and then he got frustrated and then he was pressing,” Zimmer said. “I think he just has to come in and just be an athlete. You’re trying to impress people so much that you start getting paralysis by analysis – I’ve got to try harder, I’ve got to try harder! Just relax and do what you’ve been doing.”
At least Treadwell has shown a desire to work hard. He was often one of the last players to leave the practice fields in Mankato in training camp and at Winter Park during the season. That wasn’t something that could be said of Patterson.
Perhaps the time off after his rookie season and a year of learning the offense and the intricacies of the NFL game will hasten his development in Year 2. He could use that for his confidence, and the Vikings could use it to improve their offense.
Said Shurmur of Treadwell: “This is going to be an offseason that’s very critical.”