MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings drafted Laquon Treadwell in the first round last spring, 23rd overall, in hopes he could spark a passing game that had ranked 31st in the league in 2015. And while the Vikings' passing offense did jump to 18th in the league in 2016, Treadwell was responsible for only 15 yards of the team's output.
He caught one pass, from Sam Bradford on Nov. 6 against the Detroit Lions, during a rookie season marred by nagging injuries that found Treadwell on the periphery of the Vikings' offense at many times. He was targeted only three times in the nine games he played, before an ankle injury suffered on special teams in Jacksonville on Dec. 11 curtailed his season.
"I was feeling more comfortable, and they were ready to put me out there, but I just went down on special teams," Treadwell said on Jan. 2. "That’s a tough break for me, but you’ve got to get healthy and come back ready."
The 21-year-old said he plans to spend his offseason training in Dallas. When he returns to the team facility for the start of offseason workouts in April, Treadwell will be expected to make a significant jump.
"He is going to be like any young player that's going from Year 1 to Year 2. This is going to be an offseason that is very critical,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “Highly drafted players come in, they're coming off of that circuit, and all of a sudden they're thrown in. He's had a chance now to go through the process once. He'll have a feel for what it's going to feel like, and we're anticipating he's going to come back and be raring to go and make great improvements.”
While some receivers make a big jump from their first to their second seasons, others find that the spike in performance happens from their second to third seasons. Players who spent time on the field as rookies, Shurmur said, are often able to pick things up quicker in their second seasons. Treadwell saw just 76 snaps as a rookie, placing him 160th out of the 202 rookies who got on the field in 2016, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But Shurmur believes Treadwell got enough time in meetings and on the practice field to absorb what he needs to grow in 2017.
"He had little nagging things that kept him from getting in there full-time early," Shurmur said. "He didn't get targeted a bunch of times, but he blocked well, and he competed. That's really the starting point for a young player."