The Vikings got a new toy!
Wide receiver was the most glaring need heading into the draft for the Vikings, and we With the 23rd pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, they got a big one in Laquon Treadwell. Much like Teddy Bridgewater two years ago, Treadwell was widely considered the top player at his position until pre-draft concerns saw him fall to the late first round. But General Manager Rick Spielman liked what he saw from the very beginning.
We spent a lot of time with him through the process. We spent time with him at the combine, we brought him up here on a top 30 visit. We feel that what he's going to bring to our offense is that large catching radius, a guy that's very physical, maybe the best run blocker I've seen. But also can make catches with his large hand and catching radius.
(Spielman and Zimmer mentioned Treadwell's catching radius several times during their press conferences. The folks at Sports Science explain why in this video.)
Spielman complimented the attitude and drive of Treadwell. He said that the team watched all of Treadwell's game tape from 2014 leading up to his devastating injury against Auburn that resulted in a dislocated ankle and broken fibula. Spielman was impressed at how finished the 2015 season after a "rusty start", especially with how he played in the Sugar Bowl victory over Oklahoma State where he scored three touchdowns.
The Vikings received calls from at least four teams to trade down from the 23rd pick but Spielman didn't consider any of the offers rich enough to make a deal. He was happy with sticking with Laquon at 23. He claimed that the Vikings never seriously considered moving up in the draft even after the run of wide receivers started with Houston taking Will Fuller at 21.
Spielman was asked about Myles Jack, a coveted prospect with injury concerns that played at UCLA like current Vikings linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. He was quick to dismiss any discussion of Jack, who is still available after not being selected in the first round.
The infamous slow 40 time from Treadwell didn't deter Spielman much in his selection, who still considers Treadwell a very good athlete for his size.
With his strength and his quickness for his size, I think he can potentially create some mismatches at this level...I know what I saw in 14 and the type of plays he made. I think he's a tremendous athlete for his size. I think you saw that athleticism coming back the more confident he got on his leg after that injury. Especially toward the second half of the year.
Coach Zimmer shared a lot of Spielman's sentiments, even though he joked that "I bet you thought we were going defense, didn't ya?" at the beginning of his press conference. He laughed it off by saying "I always fight for defensive guys, ya know?"
Zimmer explained that Treadwell is an excellent fit for what the Vikings are trying to do on offense:
A lot of the routes that we throw is exactly what Treadwell does. At the end of the year meetings last year, one of the things we wanted was a big receiver with a large catching radius. It was important to get some size out there.
Treadwell's attitude and demeanor played a big role in his selection, and Zimmer reiterated that speed wasn't as big of an issue as some make it out to be:
This kid is a lot like how I'm trying to build this football team. He's a tough, physical player that's a heck of a competitor. He is the best blocking receiver that I have ever seen...I know there's a lot about his 40 time, but some guys just play fast on the tape and that's what he does. He was the #1 rated receiver coming out of high school, he was the #1 rated receiver in 2014, and then he got hurt. He was a little slow coming on this year, but I think he's going to help us in a lot of ways...he was the one [out of the receivers in the draft] with all the intangibles that stood out to us.
While plenty is being made of Treadwell's excellent ability, Zimmer claimed it was "an added bonus." Both Spielman and Zimmer were sure to point out that Treadwell's ability as a receiver was what stood out the most. His competitive spirit and toughness stood out to Zimmer as well:
I like tough guys. I like physical guys. It doesn't have to be just on defense, it can be all over the football field. It's an attitude we're trying to present here with the Vikings. And he has an attitude about him.
Zimmer acknowledged that the Treadwell/Michael Irvin comparisons are a little premature--"Michael's pretty good," he chuckled--but alluded back to the route running that seems to be a good fit. He can see the resemblance of some players in Treadwell, but "I don't really like to compare players, honestly."
Coach explained that Treadwell wasn't drafted to help out in one or two areas, but chosen to be a complete wide receiver:
I don't this guy to be just a red zone receiver. I want him to be an all the time receiver. But we did talk about his ability in the red zone to use his size and strength. That's another added factor, but you take receivers because they're receivers. Not blockers or red zone players. But those are added bonuses, yes.
Finally, Zimmer reiterated how Treadwell's size will help change what the Vikings hope to do on offense in 2016:
We felt like we needed a big receiver that can go up and get the football. That can battle in some of the areas [of the field]. That's what he intrigued us right from the start. I felt like it was important for our team to have a big guy. We talked about it in January when we got done [with the season]. A big, physical receiver.
We'll have more from Winter Park as Laquon Treadwell is scheduled to be in town for an introductory press conference tomorrow, as well as wall-to-wall coverage of Day 2 of the 2016 NFL Draft.