To count down the days until Vikings rookies, quarterbacks and select veterans report to Mankato on July 23, we will reveal our ranking of the 17 most important Vikings players heading into the 2017 season. Look for the next player on our list every weekday morning at Access Vikings.
This list, created by Matt Vensel and Andrew Krammer, is not a ranking of the best players on the team, though sheer talent is obviously an essential factor. It is a ranking of the players whose upcoming season will have the biggest impact on the franchise, whether it’s in 2017 or beyond.
Coming in at No. 10 on our list is receiver Laquon Treadwell.
Laquon Treadwell cut toward the pylon and faded toward the back corner of the end zone. His leaping touchdown grab over cornerback Trae Waynes during the final Vikings practice of the offseason last month provided a glimpse into what they need from him to expand last year’s limited passing game.
Our top 10 most important Vikings for this season will feature much of the retooled rushing attack, which ranked dead last in the league. But the importance of a reliable outside receiver for quarterback Sam Bradford shouldn’t be overlooked, especially for this former first-round pick.
By now, Treadwell’s one-catch rookie season is well documented after the Vikings made him the 23rd-overall pick a year ago. What’s important moving forward is whether or not Treadwell can remain on the field and become the pesky and physical NFL receiver the Vikings envisioned.
Treadwell’s health was an issue more than the Vikings, including Treadwell, let on last season. A broken thumb, hamstring and ankle injuries compounded with lingering pain Treadwell said began with the broken fibula and dislocated ankle at Ole Miss two years prior. Pushing through that frustration was another learning experience for Treadwell, whom head coach Mike Zimmer said looks “much more comfortable” than a year ago.
The Vikings are giving Treadwell his chances to earn a starting role and contribute this season. The 22-year-old receiver worked as the starting split end throughout the offseason with recently signed veteran Michael Floyd running routes behind him. Floyd is likely facing an NFL suspension to start this season.
Now can Treadwell translate his physical gifts, which include long arms and soft hands, into production? First-year receivers coach Darrell Hazell said last month he wants to see Treadwell’s toughness emerge at the line of scrimmage, where he felt he was knocked off balance too much when watching his limited rookie tape.
Treadwell can’t show any growth against press coverage until training camp begins later this month. That’s when he’ll put on pads for the first time since he was a rookie, and the Vikings will eagerly await his response to an underwhelming start.
The Star Tribune’s ranking of the 17 most important Vikings in 2017:
11. Trae Waynes, CB
16. Pat Elflein, C/G