Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Laquon Treadwell could be key to Minnesota Vikings offense reimagining

Remember the guy in the picture? He did some special things in the SEC, which can’t be overlooked. But, as Laquon Treadwell sees the competition heating up for carving out roles in the Minnesota Vikings offense, what will his future be?

A year ago at this time, much of the talk about the Minnesota Vikings offense was the difference that wide receiver Laquon Treadwell was going to make.

After dominating the SEC and coming back from a gruesome ankle dislocation that ended his 2015 season at Ole Miss, the majority of high-profile draft analysts had Treadwell ranked as the No. 1 wide receiver in the draft class of 2016 because his game translated best to the NFL.

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He wasn’t going to be a deep bomb suspect like some of the other top receivers from last year’s draft class, but he was viewed as a younger version of Anquan Boldin – a tough guy who will catch contested passes and be someone counted on for 70 to 80 receptions a year.

In his rookie season, all he had to show for it was one reception.

One!

It wasn’t as though he was sidelined with a debilitating injury. He was available, even if he wasn’t 100 percent back from his college injury. At first, it was thought he was in Norv Turner’s doghouse. Apparently, Turner leaving didn’t change things.

The Vikings coaching staff, with Mike Zimmer as the primary voice of discussion, consistently said that Treadwell was making progress and was looking good in practice. Yet, on Sundays? Nothing.

The signing this past week of Michael Floyd has been viewed as a potential indictment of Treadwell. Perhaps those reactionists should tap the brakes.

Treadwell is one year into a four-year contract with the Vikings. If he just wasn’t “getting it” in terms of running a route tree, that could be a logical explanation for a forgettable rookie season.

The difference from a year ago and now is that the price of being a Vikings wide receiver just went up. Stefon Diggs proved his rookie season in 2015 was a stepping stone to becoming a legitimate No. 1 receiver.

Adam Thielen emerged beyond even the loftiest of expectations last season, getting a starting job the old-fashioned way – by earning it. It can be argued even the Vikings didn’t know what they had until bullets were flying and they needed a spark on offense and Thielen provided it.

There’s no logical reason to think the Vikings would scale back either of their roles in the offense. They’re at the top of the depth chart for a reason. They’re the big dogs.

It could have been explained away as Turner bias if Treadwell’s role in the offense took a spike after he left. But, in the Shurmur offense, nothing changed. Granted, he improved his career total of receptions from none to one under Shurmur’s watch. But, the left side of the stat sheet still screams “1” in terms of career receptions.

With the addition of Floyd, Treadwell is in a “put up-or-shut up” role in the offense. Unfortunately for Cordarrelle Patterson, he was forced to prove his offensive value a little too late for the Vikings to match the pee-wee offer proposed by the Oakland Raiders to step up and preserve his free-agent dignity.

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Fortunately for Treadwell, he has three more years to prove himself on offense to live up to his pre-draft price tag. That one reception in 2016 is going to stick with him for the rest of his career. If it becomes the ironic twist in the story of Treadwell’s NFL career, it will stick with him forever.

If it becomes the defining topic of his NFL career, not so good.

Let it not be lost on those who 12 months ago were convinced they got away with the perfect crime by sitting tight, they got the guy they wanted. Now they need him to live up to that billing.

Technically, Treadwell has three years going on his rookie contract. He can prove a lot in that time. A lot.

A year ago at this time, the Vikings were asking Patterson what he could do to earn a second contract. He caught 50 passes. He gave other NFL teams – presumably the Raiders included – the idea that a gunner on the punt team and the best kickoff returner in the NFL could make a difference in field position.

That wasn’t enough to make up for two-plus years of offensive silence.

Treadwell isn’t a return guy, so he doesn’t have that to fall back on. He’s going to have to prove it on the field. The price of playing wide receiver for the Vikings just went up and Treadwell could make things interesting – for the Vikings decision-makers and defensive coordinators on the 2017 schedule.


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