Laquon Treadwell was one of the biggest draft busts in the Minnesota Vikings’ history. He was taken 23rd overall out of Ole Miss and was one of the most hyped receivers in his draft class. The fanbase was excited to get a star wide receiver, and the only concerns with him entering the draft were his speed, and an injury suffered in 2014. Treadwell seemed like the right pick at the time.
Unfortunately, he didn’t pan out at the pro level. Obviously, we can’t go back and change the past. But if we could, who might the Vikings have drafted instead of Treadwell?
To determine what the Vikings missed out on, we’re only gonna look at players who were projected to go in the first or second round of the 2016 draft. This list does not include late-round steals that no team was going to take in the first two rounds.
Ironically, Washington selected TCU receiver Josh Doctson immediately before Treadwell, starting a trend of first-round busts from that point on. Out of every player drafted between 22nd and 32nd overall, only the Green Bay Packers’ pick, Kenny Clark, is with his original team.
Clark hasn’t exactly taken the league by storm, but he has been a solid member of the Packers for five seasons now. However, the Vikings had Shamar Stephen and Linval Joseph, so D-tackle wasn’t exactly the biggest need. However, given what we know now, Clark was the best available first-round talent who would have been there at pick 23.
It’s likely that if the Vikings drafted Clark, he would have been used as a rotational player. Therefore, he would not have put up the stats that he had in Green Bay. Clark would have joined an already proven D-line, bolstering a powerful pass rush and run-stopping defense instead of being a star player on it.
Because of their depth on the defensive line, the Vikings probably would not have drafted Clark. Instead, Rick Spielman would probably have pulled off his famous trade-downs and found a player that suited their current needs in the second round.
The Vikings desperately needed a linebacker in 2016. Many fans and analysts were high on Myles Jack, who was drafted 36th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jack wasn’t expected to be available in the second round, and many fans wanted Minnesota to trade up to select him. It turned out they were right.
If the Vikings decided to draft Jack, they would have gotten a stud at linebacker. He was one of the first LBs to start the trend of undersized, speedy linebackers built to cover passes in the modern NFL. Five years in, Jack has 678 total tackles in just 73 games and has been one of the few bright spots on a struggling Jacksonville defense.
He would have instantly been a game-changer on the Vikings’ defense. Jack has played every linebacker position in his career, and his versatility and run-stopping ability would endear him to Mike Zimmer.
But even beyond Jack, Minnesota’s biggest what-if of the 2016 draft is Michael Thomas, drafted 47th overall, who has become a nemesis of sorts on the New Orleans Saints. Sure, there are some knocks on him throughout his career, such as his limited route tree, but he has still been everything the Vikings wished Treadwell could have been.
If the Vikings drafted Thomas, we all know what they would have gotten. Adding him to a receiver room that already had Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen would have made for an unstoppable offense. It would have harkened back to the days of Randy Moss, Cris Carter, and Jake Reed. They’re still searching for a WR3 today.
Perhaps the only downside of drafting Thomas would be what it foreshadows for the future. Likely, the Vikings would not have drafted Justin Jefferson in last year. But who’s to say that’s not the case with Thielen on the wrong side of 30. Also, having an offense with Thomas, Diggs, and Thielen means an offense that is throwing the ball much more than we see now. Perhaps the splitting of the targets would mean that Diggs could still be in town.
Finally, if the Vikings drafted Derrick Henry, who was taken 45th overall, their team would look drastically different today. They probably don’t take Dalvin Cook a year later, and not having Cook would completely change the whole offense.
Minnesota would probably have tried to shape itself around Henry, which wouldn’t be a massive shift considering how much they utilize Cook. Over the last two seasons, Cook has had 659 touches in just 14 games. If the Vikings had drafted Henry, those touches would mostly have been rushing attempts instead of passes.
We would likely see the Vikings adopt an even more archaic offense, with Henry getting most of the touches. Running the ball would become an even bigger staple than it already is for the Vikings offense.
Clearly, there is nothing we can do to go back and change the Treadwell pick. However, it is a fun thought to think about what could have been.