Laquon Treadwell knows exactly where his career stands with NFL cutdown day looming just 11 days away. And, yes, the Vikings receiver knows how odd it sounds, even after three disappointing seasons, for a 24-year-old former first-round pick to call himself an "underdog" surrounded by overachievers.
But, unfortunately for Treadwell and those who swung and missed on him with the 26th pick in 2016, even Treadwell could easily defend his early-career characterization with a descriptive self-analysis that explains why he's no longer overqualified to call himself an underdog.
"I can because over the last past few years I haven't played up to that potential," he said after Sunday's 25-19 preseason win over Seattle. "There are other guys who wasn't drafted and played better than me. So over time things change.
"Other guys probably had to prove themselves coming in. Now, it's time for me to prove myself, compete at a high level, stay locked in. Adversity is a little fun. I smile at adversity."
There have been few smiles as Treadwell has posted just 56 catches, 517 yards, one touchdown and 15 starts in 40 games as a Viking. And, chances are trending toward the next smile being one of wistful regret when this marriage finally ends with Treadwell being released or traded in a Troy Williamson-like fire sale over the next two weeks.
Considering the Vikings now have little use for him outside of third-string duties, Treadwell was asked Sunday night if he allows his mind to wander to what a fresh start with another team would feel like. To salvage as much of his career as possible without the smothering burden of every step being weighed against someone else's draft-day mistake.
"Of course, that comes across when you're struggling and you want to help a team so bad," Treadwell said. "But I try not to make that my reality because it's not. I try not to speak that into existence … because it's not reality.
"You got to embrace where you are at all times in your life. That's part of the reason I'm not on social media because it gives you false reality. I just try to stay in my present moment and go as hard as I can."
If the Vikings keep five receivers, Treadwell's reality is he has virtually no chance of making the team. Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Chad Beebe are locked in as the top three while Brandon Zylstra and rookie seventh-round pick Olabisi Johnson are comfortably ahead of Treadwell at receiver and value on special teams.
If the Vikings keep their usual allotment of six receivers, Treadwell's main competition for the final spot is Jordan Taylor and Jeff Badet, not to mention the possibility of the Vikings signing another team's castoff, à la Aldrick Robinson early last season. Dillon Mitchell, another rookie seventh-round pick, is behind Treadwell at receiver but has value as a kick returner.
If the Vikings release Treadwell, they'll save $655,000 but carry $2.5 million in dead money. If they can somehow coax a trade, the entire cap hit goes away.
So it's no secret the Vikings are shopping Treadwell. On Sunday night, he played 15 of his 27 snaps in the fourth quarter, including all 12 snaps of an 84-yard touchdown drive in which he caught three passes for 42 yards and three first downs, one of which was a 9-yarder while being held on third-and-5 from Seattle's 10-yard line.
"Try to showcase him a little bit, I guess," coach Mike Zimmer said after the game.
Treadwell spent the players' off day Monday visiting his grandmother, Judy Young, in a Chicago hospital. He said he was told Saturday that Young has only three months to live.
That news still was weighing on Treadwell's mind Sunday night when he told reporters it was "kind of fun being the underdog."
"You go out there you can just play free," he said. "You're not really the guy they expect to shine or make big plays, so you just make the most of your opportunities. That's a great perspective to have."
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: email@example.com