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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Krammer: Laquon Treadwell ‘falls’ to Vikings, who need him to live up to billing

By Andrew Krammer

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — One off-field decision made Rick Spielman initially question Laquon Treadwell’s competitiveness. Perhaps the Vikings general manager was just irked he’d have to wait a month for a key piece to the puzzle.

Back in February, a healthy Treadwell opted not to run the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine and wait for the Ole Miss pro day. Teams like the Vikings were eager to see arguably the draft’s top receiver prospect put a number on his speed: “To me, if you’re healthy and you’re a competitor, why wouldn’t you want to compete on a stage like this?” Spielman rhetorically asked in Indianapolis.

So Spielman’s pro day circuit, focusing on receivers, took him to Mississippi on March 28th, exactly one month before Thursday night’s first round of the NFL Draft. He got the number he wanted — 4.63, which was a subpar time for Treadwell and may have contributed to his slide.

Treadwell was the No. 1-rated receiver coming out of high school in 2013. He led college football’s toughest conference, the SEC, with 11 touchdown grabs in a season he admittedly wasn’t fully recovered from a gruesome 2014 injury.

Yet he was the fourth and final receiver taken in the opening round.

“I think the 40 time may have knocked him some, but you have to go off what you see on tape, too,” Spielman said minutes after selecting Treadwell. “And we try to make estimates on speed, on what we see on tape and I felt very strongly that he plays faster than what he ran at his pro day.”

Treadwell, 20, admitted his surprise as he and his family, including his mother Tami and three-year-old daughter Madison, watched 22 players get selected ahead of him in his hometown of Chicago, the site of the draft. When the time finally came, head coach Mike Zimmer took the phone before submitting the pick, asking him: “You like the purple?” Treadwell responded: “Yes, sir. I’ve got it on right now.”

“You always want to go as high as possible, so I was surprised,” Treadwell told Twin Cities media on a conference call. “I just think I fell to the right spot…Receivers coach [George Stewart], he really got personal with me and told me he wanted to help me, and if I was there at 23 he was going to draft me. I ended up being there.”

While Treadwell may not have been atop their receiver rankings, the Vikings made the choice to fill the team’s primary need with a promising young talent. They did not try to trade up, according to Spielman, who said they still “really liked three or four” players at No. 23 once the New York Jets took linebacker Darron Lee at No. 20. One of those players certainly may have been receiver Josh Doctson, who came to Minnesota with Treadwell for a Top-30 visit and was taken the pick before at No. 22 by Washington.

The Vikings wanted a true split end after the franchise’s last first-round pick at the position, Cordarrelle Patterson, has struggled to learn the nuances of the position. They needed length and physicality. Treadwell (6-2, 221) possesses just that, as he measured with some of the longest arms (33 3/8?) among receivers at the combine while being touted as one of the best blocking receivers to be recently drafted.

“After the season got over, and you go through your year-end review, one of the things we talked about was that we wanted to get a big receiver with a big catching radius,” Zimmer said Thursday night. “We just felt like with this football team that was important for us to get some size out there. We have [Stefon] Diggs, Jarius Wright, kind of smaller guys, so that was part of it.”

Zimmer wasn’t able to travel to the Ole Miss pro day, like he did at TCU, where he literally got his hands on Doctson while running drills. He relied on Treadwell’s tape and the advice of his coaching staff and scouts. Tight ends coach Pat Shumur, a long-time offensive coordinator, gave his insight on the receivers. They watched every play of his strong sophomore season that was cut short by a broken fibula and dislocated ankle on Nov. 1, 2014 against Auburn.

His long recovery and successful rebound, which included three touchdowns in his final game for Ole Miss, was part of the allure for Spielman, who said he valued Treadwell over the offers he was receiving from teams to trade back from No. 23.

“The thing is when you watch him play on the field, he has an edge to him,” Spielman said. “Those are the type of players we’re trying to get in here.”

And unlike cornerback Trae Waynes a year ago, they’ll likely need Treadwell to contribute immediately.

The stakes are higher than when the Vikings swung on Patterson three years ago at 29th overall. Now the Vikings have their No. 1 receiver of the future at a critical juncture as Treadwell will develop alongside franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who enters his third NFL season.

This franchise is coming off 11 wins, a NFC North title and a 27-yard field goal away from likely defeating the then-reigning NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs. They leaned on an overhauled defense that thrived in situations — third downs, red zone — and needed to even the scales by giving Bridgewater a wide, consistent target.

They haven’t had a long-term, productive split end since Randy Moss. Sidney Rice enjoyed success with Brett Favre before injuries derailed his career. Percy Harvin was a different style of shifty playmaker. And Stefon Diggs’ 55 yards per game last season was the team’s most since Harvin in 2012.

Bridgewater has 28 passing touchdowns in 29 career starts and the Vikings ranked second-to-last in that category last season, better than only the L.A. Rams. They’re confident Treadwell can help this passing attack immediately as a well-rounded receiver: “A lot of the routes that we throw, is exactly what Treadwell does,” Zimmer said.

Treadwell turns 21 in June. His age gives them additional hope he can build on deficiencies, such as speed.

“We expect a lot of things from [Treadwell] as we go forward,” Spielman said.

The post Krammer: Laquon Treadwell ‘falls’ to Vikings, who need him to live up to billing appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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