LaQuon Treadwell Should Fit Right Into Vikings’ Offense, Culture

For months, fans, journalists and talking heads alike projected the Minnesota Vikings would take a big-bodied possession receiver in the opening round of the NFL Draft. Thursday night, the Vikings followed through, selecting LaQuon Treadwell of Ole Miss with the 23rd pick – one pick after another candidate, WR Josh Doctson, went off the board to the Washington Redskins.

Despite some Tuesday smokescreens where general manager Rick Spielman declared the team wasn’t “honed in” on a receiver in the first round, and that the team didn’t value height too highly in their receiver evaluations, Minnesota got the type of guy they’d apparently been targeting all offseason. “After the season got over, year-end review,” said head coach Mike Zimmer, “one of the things we talked about was we wanted to get a big receiver with a big catching radius. We just felt like with this football team, that was important for us, to get some size out there.”

“[Zimmer] got personal with me and told me that he wanted to help me,” said Treadwell on a conference call. “If I’m there at 23, they were going to draft me. I ended up being there. I just think it’s a dream come true.”

The Vikings now have a young, high-ceiling talent – Treadwell is only 20 – who should immediately improve the team’s productivity in the red zone. Minnesota was 27th in red zone touchdown percentage last season thanks to a dearth of targets that could go up and catch a jump ball. At 6-foot-2.5, Treadwell gives the team the height its sorely lacked at the receiver position, and according to Zimmer, his go-to routes mesh perfectly with Norv Turner’s offensive scheme.

His greatest trait is his physicality, though. Not only can Treadwell outmuscle smaller defensive backs, but Zimmer called him the best blocking receiver he’d ever seen. “He’s a big-time competitor. You know, I like competitors,” said Zimmer. “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 it.”

For a 20 year old, Treadwell comes across as more mature than your average junior in college. He is contemplative in his words but not short. Certainly not shallow. Treadwell has a four-year-old daughter that accompanied him on stage after his name was called at the draft. Perhaps fatherhood has expedited his maturity and character growth – or at least kept him from taking any bong hits out of gas masks.

Treadwell spoke about his toughness with reporters Thursday night. “Just my lifestyle, my struggles, my situations I go through, just playing defense and defensive end in high school and playing all over the field as a kid. When I moved to receiver I just kind of naturally played with an aggressive edge,” he recalled.

The Vikings are banking on Treadwell’s game speed being better than his straightline Pro Day 40-yard dash, which clocked in at a linebacker-like 4.65. The Crete, Ill., native broke his leg and dislocated his ankle as a sophomore at Ole Miss, and as the receiver explained, it took him until Week 5 of last season to feel comfortable taking hits again. He also said he’s still receiving treatment.

His recovery is motivating enough to make you go run steps like Rocky. “I just told myself if I wasn’t getting better, I wasn’t gonna eat,” said Treadwell, who put off breakfast until he’d undergone morning rehab sessions. “It really wasn’t as serious as it sounds, but in the morning I would do something productive to help my body recover and then I would go eat breakfast and then go off to class, and then between classes I would come and get treatment, so I just stayed on top of everything, and I just made sure I was trying to become the athlete I wanted to become.

“I just continue to think that I’m just 20, so what can I look like in the next three years or four years if I keep working hard, and that’s what I did to get to this point.”

If indeed Treadwell was playing at sub-100 percent as a junior, his numbers against SEC defenses are awfully impressive. Treadwell, who also set most of the SEC’s freshman receiving records in 2013, caught 82 balls for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final college season.

There are red flags about Treadwell that you’ll surely read about over the next four months. He’s not a perfect wideout by any means. That being said, the Vikings have created a culture where toughness is a virtue. Quotes about toughness are plastered across the team’s meeting room wall. The head coach values passion, physicality and grit. Treadwell has these intangibles. And on a team that threw for the second fewest yards in football last season, his lengthy stature will provide a breath of fresh air for third-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Treadwell may not have been a great match in all locations, but he fits the bill in Minnesota. “From the day I went to visit the Vikings, the first time I walked in and got off the bus,” Treadwell said, “I knew it was a first-class organization.”

Sam Ekstrom covers the Vikings for Cold Omaha and Follow him on Twitter @SamEkstrom. Check out his breakdown of Treadwell below with Luke Inman and Arif Hasan.

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