By drafting Laquon Treadwell in the first round on Thursday night, the Vikings added the right kind of player at the right position.
They needed a big, physical receiver, and they got one. Treadwell should complement Stefon Diggs and Jarius Wright, and take advantage of defenses worried about Adrian Peterson, and give Teddy Bridgewater confidence to throw downfield with more abandon.
Treadwell makes sense for the Vikings. Because they drafted him one pick after Washington took TCU’s Josh Doctson and two picks after Houston took Will Fuller, the three teams and three players will have reason to compare these picks for years. It’s rare for three consecutive first-round picks to come from the same position.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman could have made one of his dramatic draft-day moves and traded up to take Doctson. He chose to keep the 23rd pick and take Treadwell.
Spielman and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer spoke as if Treadwell was their top receiving prospect regardless of how the draft played out. Spielman usually doesn’t offer much actual information during news conferences, but Zimmer tends to be blunt, so they may have actually preferred Treadwell.
Spielman and Zimmer raved about Treadwell’s strength, toughness, competitiveness, blocking ability and hands. Doctson is also a tremendous athlete who was highly productive.
Maybe both will be great, but this will be a interesting test of the Vikings’ scouting.
“I like physical guys,’’ Zimmer said. “It’s an attitude that we’re trying to present here. He has an attitude about him.’’
Zimmer called Treadwell the best blocking receiver he’s ever scouted. Spielman said Treadwell plays “like he has a point to prove.’’
The Vikings have had one 1,000-yard receiver since 2005 — Sidney Rice in 2009.
Last year the Vikings’ leading receiver was Stefon Diggs, a rookie who wasn’t active early in the season. He finished with 720 yards. Their second-leading receiver was tight end Kyle Rudolph, who had a disappointing 495 yards. Their second-most productive wideout was veteran Mike Wallace, who finished with 473 yards.
It’s remarkable that a modern-era team can win 11 games with such horrid production at receiver.
If Treadwell is as good as his new team thinks he is, the Vikings could have two 1,000-yard-or-close-to-it receivers next year. And if they have two 1,000-yard receivers to go with Adrian Peterson and a strong defense, they may not need Blair Walsh to make a last-second field goal to advance in the playoffs.
“A lot of the routes we throw are exactly what Treadwell does,’’ Zimmer said. “After the season got over, you go through your year-end review. One of the things we talked about was we wanted to get a big receiver with a big catch radius. We felt like with this team that was important, to get some size out there.’’
Treadwell should help balance the offense. He should give Bridgewater confidence to throw the ball into tight spaces, and downfield, knowing that Treadwell will fight for the ball. Treadwell’s blocking could help the running game, and his ability to catch the ball in traffic should help the offense in the red zone.
The Vikings were right not to worry about Treadwell’s disappointing 40-yard-dash time. Raw, straight-line speed is overrated in the NFL. The ability to adapt to and fight for a ball is much more important.
Treadwell is an ideal pick for this team, at that juncture of the draft. In a few years we’ll know whether the Vikings were right to wait for him, or whether they should have moved up to take Doctson.
“He was the No. 1-rated receiver coming out of high school,’’ Zimmer said. “He was the No. 1 receiver in 2014 and then he got hurt and he was slow coming on this year. I think he’s going to help us in a lot of ways.’’
Fuller, Doctson and Treadwell will be compared for years, but Treadwell might have the easiest task of the three. He can provide the biggest immediate improvement to a receiving corps, and he might be joining the best of the three teams.