There is no need to mince words; Laquon Treadwell has been a disappointment since the Vikings selected him in the first round in 2016. Through his first two seasons, Treadwell amassed only 215 yards on 21 catches and zero touchdowns. In the meantime, fifth-round pick Stefon Diggs and undrafted Adam Thielen have emerged as stars at the position. Some, including this writer, admittedly, had already labeled Treadwell as a bust.
Yet, here we are in camp and the third-year receiver has emerged as the early star. Despite being the fourth or fifth receiver in his first two seasons, Treadwell has taken first team snaps in three-receiver sets. And when given those opportunities, he has shown immense improvement and an immediate connection with Kirk Cousins.
“I’ve always had confidence,” Treadwell said early in camp. “I’m just more experienced and know what’s going on. I understand how to be a player.”
Critics of Treadwell’s game pointed to relative lack of speed and inability to get separation as his main issues. However, when looking back on last year’s tape, it is clear that Treadwell found openings more often than his numbers suggest. But the West Coast system, Treadwell being the fourth or fifth read much of the time and the style of Case Keenum resulted in few targets for him. In camp, Treadwell has shown smoothness in and out of breaks, an increased quickness and effective use of his body to make contested grabs.
Perhaps most encouraging, however, is the apparent mutual affinity Treadwell and Cousins have established already. Last week, Cousins found Treadwell for four touchdowns in 7-on-7 red zone drills, including an impressive leap over Xavier Rhodes for a score. He has also found Treadwell often down the field in full team drills.
“He had a great OTAs and minicamp, and he’s off to a great start at training camp,” Cousins said. “I’m excited to see what he grows into this year. He’s getting a lot of reps and a lot of looks.”
Red zone is an area where the Vikings thrived last year, albeit with a different quarterback. Treadwell, however, played little role in that. Seeing him find the end zone often thus far is certainly encouraging. Another source for optimism is Treadwell working with the first group since spring practices started. Veteran receiver Kendall Wright led the Bears in receiving last year. Knowing that Treadwell currently tops him on the depth chart is a strong sign for the Vikings still-developing offense.
As always, drawing definitive conclusions from camp can be a fool’s errand. It may not translate whatsoever to Sundays. That said, Treadwell is taking virtually all of his snaps against one of the best secondaries in the game and frequently coming out on top. That observation on its own is one of the prime takeaways from Vikings camp thus far.