By all accounts, the Vikings got their guy on Thursday night. Laquon Treadwell was one of the best players available at the 23rd pick and filled both a positional and strategical void in Minnesota. Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer repeatedly used the buzzwords "size", "catch radius", "plays fast" and "competitive" to describe their new draftee. Treadwell claims that he thinks Minnesota is the "right spot" for him.
I think Minnesota is the right spot for Treadwell too. He was one of my favorite draft targets leading up to Day 1 and I'm thrilled that the Vikings landed him. Treadwell comes with some concerns and his ceiling may not be as high as other wide receivers in this draft, but the things he excels at are exactly what the Vikings needed to add to their offense.
But how close were we to someone other than Treadwell being the pick last night? Things can change in a heartbeat during the course of the first round. (Hi, Laremy Tunsil!) One move can have a domino effect throughout the rest of the weekend. It's obviously moot now, but let's ponder how things could have gone down differently in the first round.
(Oh no. I just said "Ponder" and "first round" in the same sentence. I apologize for the unintentional Draft PTSD I just caused everyone.)
The first wide receiver off the board was a bit of a surprise with the Cleveland Browns taking Corey Coleman at 15. Which probably upset a few Vikings fans hopeful that they could land the productive receiver out of Baylor, but most thought that Coleman's skill set was too similar to that of Stefon Diggs and Jarius Wright. The big targets, Josh Doctson and Treadwell, were still there for the taking as the picks inched closer and closer towards 23.
And then something curious happened. The Houston Texans, a team that was widely considered to be in the round 1 wide receiver market, traded up one pick to move ahead of Washington. The Redskins weren't exactly viewed as a threat to take a receiver, so why would Houston make the move? Was it:
- A way to make sure the Vikings didn't trade up and take someone the Texans coveted right in front of them?
- A way to make sure the Bengals didn't leapfrog over both Minnesota and Houston, leaving the Vikings and Texans to fight over the scraps?
- A smart bluff from Washington, using Cincinnati and Minnesota as leverage over Houston to snag a free 6th round pick next year?
And then something really curious happened. Houston took Will Fuller, a player that most Vikings fans wanted to avoid like the Zika virus. But wait...did that mean...that someone directly behind Houston wanted Fuller? Did Cincinnati want a speedster to compliment A.J. Green? Or did...gulp...the Vikings actually want Fuller enough to make the Texans trade up?!
Personally I don't think Fuller was ever the guy for the Vikings. With how much Spielman and Zimmer emphasized size on Thursday night, I'd be shocked if the Vikings had the Notre Dame speedster at the top of their board. If he was somehow, I need to send the Texans front office a thank you card. But I'm guessing the Bengals were a bigger threat to Houston. Either way, the two big receivers were still available with only one pick in front of the Vikings.
And then something most curious happened. Washington surprised everyone and snatched up Doctson. The rug was suddenly pulled out from underneath those of us who had their heart set on the TCU pass catcher. The impending Doctson vs. Treadwell debate was over before it started.
What if the Vikings front office was as enamored with Doctson as some of the fans were? Did it make sense for them to look to trade back now? Spielman admitted that at least four teams called him with interest. Denver wanted to move up to get Paxton Lynch (which they ended up doing in a trade with Seattle) and the Chiefs reportedly wanted in to get Treadwell (which obviously didn't happen, leaving KC to trade out of the first round altogether). After all, Slick Rick loves his ten picks every year. It would have been a great time to stockpile.
This is just a brief example of how easy it is to fall down the "what if" draft rabbit hole. One could drive himself crazy thinking about all the possible permutations of how last night could have unfolded differently. (A big reason why I usually avoid writing mock drafts.) The Vikings may not have ended up with "THE" guy they wanted last night but they certainly landed a player that could be a crucial piece of the team's future.
And no, it isn't blasphemous to assume that the Vikings are still happy even if they didn't get their very first priority late in the first round. KSTP's Darren Wolfson, who is very plugged in behind the Minnesota sports scene, hinted that Treadwell probably wasn't the Vikings' top pick at wide receiver. And that's just fine. I was OK with either Doctson or Treadwell; why couldn't Minnesota's front office be OK with that as well? In the end the Vikings still landed a great wide receiver that should be able to immediately improve their struggling passing attack.
Remember, Treadwell is only 17 months removed from a serious injury. If he can get back to his 2014 form when he was the presumed belle of the draft ball, the Vikings may have snagged another SEC steal like they did the last time they picked 23rd overall (Sharrif Floyd). If his improvement from the beginning of the season to the Sugar Bowl last year is any indication, Treadwell could quiet his doubters sooner than you think.
No ifs about it.