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Player Spotlight: Laquon Treadwell

A detailed look at Laquon Treadwell's fantasy prospects for 2016.

THE MISSING PIECE

The maxim that the NFL has become a passing league seems to be true. Fans may be surprised to hear that only one playoff team in 2015 had a 1,000 yard rusher. That team was the Minnesota Vikings. Ultimately, they fell short in last year’s playoffs when Blair Walsh missed a critical field goal with only seconds left. During that game, Adrian Peterson was held to 45 yards on 23 carries. With the rushing attack stymied by the stiff Seattle defense selling out to stop the run, the Vikings had no answer. The passing game was positively woeful. The leading receiver for the Vikings (Stefon Diggs) logged a paltry 26 yards through the air. A reliable primary wide receiver who could have moved the chains and provided a dominant red zone presence arguably could have given the Vikings a different outcome in that contest.

The lack of a true number one wideout was apparent not just in that game; it really hurt the Vikings all of 2015. Free agent addition Mike Wallace didn’t seem to fit with the offense. Former first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson continued to struggle to grasp the playbook. 2014 breakout Charles Johnson suffered a rib injury early in the season and never regained his form when he did return. Fifth-round rookie Stefon Diggs surprised by earning a starting spot in his first year. He posted starter numbers for several games until opposing defenses began to pay him more attention in coverage.

The Vikings have built one of the better defenses in the league thanks to their defensive-minded head coach, Mike Zimmer. While the offensive line was a problem last year due to injuries, the team made great strides to improve it in the offseason by adding San Francisco’s Alex Boone and Cincinnati’s Andre Smith. Center John Sullivan also appears to be healthy, which will help to solidify this road-grading unit. As a player who can create regardless of the personnel in front of him, Adrian Peterson remains one of the best runners in the game today. All that seemed to be lacking was that number one wide receiver until…

With the twenty-third pick of the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Vikings selected the man who will prove to be peice they’ve been missing-- Laquon Treadwell.

TREADWELL’S TALENTS

On film, we see Treadwell doing the small things that help an NFL receiver win. Among the best of his skills is his ability to release at the line-of-scrimmage. He knows how to use his hands and crisp footwork to win battles early with press corners. Playing zone against Treadwell doesn’t help, as he finds the soft spots easily and provides his quarterback with an easy completion. He is very good at tracking the ball downfield without tipping off the defender, commonly wins the ball in the air, and displays fantastic “my ball mentality.” He also gains ground after the catch by using his size and functional power to bully smaller corners, regularly breaks tackles, and keeps his balance through contact. Additionally, Treadwell is a good run blocker. While he will not primarily operate in this capacity, he can contribute on rushing downs in this way. Considering all his talents, he is more NFL ready than many rookies and should get the starting nod right away.

Despite what many may say, the fit with Minnesota is a good one. According to PFF, Teddy Bridgewater was the most accurate quarterback in the league last year when factoring in drops, batted passes, and throwaways. He has been hindered by not having a reliable target who can get open quickly when the offensive line has failed. The off-season acquisitions along the line should help it to hold up better and give Bridgewater more time to throw. If the line does not gel as hoped, Treadwell can stay closer-to-home and catch quick passes from Bridgewater. His work after the catch creates yards that will move the chains. If the line is much improved and Bridgewater has time, Treadwell can also do work deep. This report indicates that Bridgewater has been working hard in the offseason to improve his deep accuracy.

LAQUON LOSING

Perhaps the biggest knock on Treadwell is his lack of straight-line speed. He ran a 4.65 forty-yard dash at his pro day, a sluggish mark for prototypical receivers of his height and weight. Many are concerned that this will cause separation issues for him against NFL competition. Treadwell dropped more passes in his last collegiate year than he had in any other year. Thus, concentration drops will be an area in which he will need to focus on improving. Treadwell is also sometimes too passionate and aggressive for his own good, leading to false-start and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. That is one problem area that will probably show up in his NFL play.

POSITIVES:

  • Treadwell provides a perfect fit for the Vikings team needs.

  • He wins against physical corners and is a great jump ball receiver.

  • Treadwell is ready to contribute as a rookie and will probably start from game one.

NEGATIVES:

  • Speed is not the name of Treadwell’s game. Some believe he’ll struggle to separate from corners in the NFL because he lacks it.

  • Treadwell needs to improve his concentration to avoid drops.

  • He was often penalized in college and could have the same problem as a pro.

FINAL THOUGHTS

A receiver's value is often tied to the proficiency of his quarterback. Treadwell landed with about as good of a signal caller as one could ask. He is the key to unlocking Bridgewater’s potential. In turn, Bridgewater will be able to carry them both to fantasy relevance. Don’t be surprised if Treadwell is in strong consideration for Rookie of the Year honors when the dust settles in 2016. In redraft formats, Treadwell’s current consensus ADP is pick 93, making him a late eighth-round pick. He presents great value at that point in your draft. In dynasty rookie drafts, Treadwell should be an easy candidate for the 1.02 pick, especially in non-PPR formats.


2016 PROJECTIONS

MAURILE TREMBLAY'S PROJECTIONS

G

RSH

YD

Y/R

TD

REC

YD

Y/R

TD

FPT

16

1

5

5

0

73

965

13.2

6

205.50

DAVID DODDS' PROJECTIONS

G

RSH

YD

Y/R

TD

REC

YD

Y/R

TD

FPT

16

0

0

0

0

57

758

13.3

5

163.30

OTHER VIEWPOINTS

Austin Erwin of Yahoo Sports writes that Treadwell will start immediately and make life easier for his quarterback:

“Treadwell will supply the Vikings with a receiving threat they have lacked for a long time. The sizable frame and massive catch radius will allow him to make plays that others don’t have the ability to. Bridgewater will have an easier target when he finds number 11 open.”

Sports on Earth’s Ross Tucker predicts that the Vikings can be a surprise Super Bowl contender with an improved receiving group:

“The receiving corps should be in better shape with the addition of first round stud Laquon Treadwell and the subtraction of overpriced one-trick pony Mike Wallace. Plus, there's no reason why Stefon Diggs shouldn't be able to build on his stellar rookie season.”

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus does not think that Treadwell is a top receiving prospect:

There is a lot to like about Treadwell, but there are also enough flaws in his game to keep him away from the very highest picks of this draft in my eyes. He is a talented receiver with the ability to win jump balls, make things happen after the catch and win subtle hand-fighting battles in routes and to gain small separation down field. He also blocks well, if not quite as well as some would have you believe. His issue though is that he won’t separate regularly, and doesn’t actually take advantage of his ability to win contested catches as much as he should do. Treadwell reminds some of Dez Bryant or Michael Irvin, but to me he looks far more like Kenny Britt. Britt has had success at times in the NFL and was a first-round pick himself, so that’s not necessarily a disaster. He was taken with the 30th selection of the draft, in part because of exactly the same concerns over being able to separate. In my opinion, Treadwell is far closer to that area of the draft than a top-five pick.

ESPN’s Erik Karabell doesn’t believe the addition of Treadwell is enough to help Bridgewater elevate his fantasy game:

Bridgewater was supposed to break out last season, but 22 other quarterbacks scored more fantasy points, and 25 tossed more touchdown passes. Unless you're a big runner, it's tough for QBs to help fantasy owners sans passing yards and scores. Sure, blame the lack of weapons, but drafting Laquon Treadwell and Moritz Bohringer, and sending Mike Wallace away doesn't seem enough. This is a run-oriented team led by a future Hall of Famer that controls the football and plays strong defense. Bridgewater has 28 touchdown passes in 30 career games, and adding several rookies probably won't alter the trend.