Countdown to ‘Kato: 22 days
Along with the prestige of being a first-round NFL selection comes a great deal of pressure. Over the years, many high draft picks haven’t been able to handle the weight of fame. Some are considered flameouts by the fans if they don’t make an impact in their rookie season. Some are forced to do too much too soon. Some may possess the talent but lack the discipline to be an NFL star.
When you’re a first-round pick, publicity is its own hurdle, and Minnesota Vikings rookie Laquon Treadwell will need to conquer its lofty expectations in order to have what most would deem a successful first season.
While the Vikings took Treadwell with hopes of turning him into a downfield threat and red zone monster, they still possess three other receivers in contract years trying to make their own case as well: Adam Thielen (RFA, 2017), Charles Johnson (RFA, 2017) and Cordarrelle Patterson (UFA, 2017).
Johnson has been receiving the first-team reps throughout the offseason program, though head coach Mike Zimmer has said he prefers not to evaluate much until training camp when the pads come on and cornerbacks are allowed to exercise press coverage. “These next five weeks for him will be big,” said Zimmer. “When he gets back in here, he has to be in shape, he has to be perfecting the routes, things that he has learned in these OTAs. I think he has got a chance to be a good player.”
When it comes to rookie first-round picks starting with the Vikings, there are no guarantees, especially if there are veterans able to fill the void. Trae Waynes’ rookie season is evidence of that, as is Teddy Bridgewater’s.
While comparing Treadwell to his teammate Patterson might be doing the 21 year old an injustice, it’s quite possible their rookie seasons take on a similar trajectory
From a wide receiver standpoint, each draft class is different. Last year, the class of first-round picks was marred with injury (i.e., Kevin White, Devante Parker, Breshad Perriman, etc), except for Amari Cooper, a fourth overall pick, who was a monster from the word ‘Go.’
The previous year’s haul of Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Jr., Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin was much better collectively.
While comparing Treadwell to his teammate Patterson might be doing the 21 year old an injustice, it’s quite possible their rookie seasons take on a similar trajectory. Patterson was seldom utilized as a receiver in the first half of the season, only to become a breakout star in the final eight games. Treadwell, likewise, may start the season in a complementary role and see his role expand as he becomes more comfortable with the offense and players above him on the depth chart get banged up.
Treadwell has been working out with the second team during OTAs and mini-camp, and while workouts in shorts and t-shirts are not an ideal way to evaluate, Treadwell has struggled to get separation from the Vikings’ second team cornerbacks. The NFL is a whole new beast than Treadwell grew accustomed to at Ole Miss. “The steps and the routes — in college you get used to running it one way,” said Treadwell, “and then you come here, it’s completely different. … Picking up the playbook, it’s always a learning curve. It’s another level, so guys are faster, bigger, stronger, so you’ve just got to continue to work.”
The most important thing to realize with Treadwell is that seeing him on the bench early in the season does not signal the end of his career, nor does a Week 1 start guarantee prosperity.
Photo Credit: Sam Ekstrom