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NFL breakout players 2018: Laquon Treadwell has all the right moves to stop being an enigma for the Vikings

The former first-round receiver has had a slow start to his career, but it looks like he’s doing everything right.

NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Laquon Treadwell had 20 catches for 200 yards and no touchdowns in 16 games, seven of which were starts. As a rookie, he only had one catch for 15 yards and no, that one catch wasn’t for a touchdown. Not exactly eye-popping numbers for the former first-round pick.

So what gives?

Well after watching him on film, I honestly can’t say.

I mean just strictly from the film, the guy runs good routes, he has good hands, he’s physical AF, he hustles his ass off, and he still blocks like a fullback. Hell, I loved the way he came back to the quarterback at the end of his routes last year. That’s the kind of little thing that young players usually don’t do and end up allowing defenders to sneak in front of them for interceptions or pass breakups.

Treadwell was doing all the little things that you expect of savvy veteran receivers.

But he still wasn’t getting a lot of burn, or seeing a lot of targets.

I realize the Vikings have other receivers who are pretty good too, like Stefon Diggs, who just signed a big deal, and Adam Thielen, who just had a career year. But I really am not sure either of those guys are that much physically better than Treadwell. They do happen to get more playing time and the ball thrown their way a lot more than he does, however. That Diggs and Thielen play well and make the most of their opportunities might be one reason why the Vikings don’t want to rock the boat by using Treadwell more, but I would think there has to be more to the story than that.

There is also the chance that while it looks like Treadwell is playing well, he’s actually running the wrong routes or doing the wrong assignments. I don’t have any way of finding out whether that’s true because I don’t have the Vikings’ playbook, but all I can tell you is that if Treadwell is running the wrong routes, he’s at least doing it at 100 miles per hour.

I wasn’t as high on Treadwell coming out in 2016 as some other folks were because I had questions about his route running, his explosiveness coming off a broken leg, and his ability to catch the football consistently. All those questions have been answered watching his tape from last year. He gets off the jam like it’s nothing now, he looks good coming out of his breaks, and the guy catches pretty much everything that gets thrown to him.

And then there is the hustle.

This kid still goes balls-to-the-wall on every play, whether he’s blocking on a running play or trying to run over somebody after he has made a catch.

The kind of energy Treadwell plays with is inspiring and it definitely stands out when you watch his film. If he is messing up on the mental side of things, it just seems like there has to be a way to help him with that when a guy is giving you everything he has on every play.

Again, maybe there are things that you can’t see on film that are holding Treadwell back. Maybe he doesn’t practice well. Maybe he has trouble with the playbook. Hell, maybe he doesn’t get along with the coaches, I don’t know. What I do know is on film he looks very capable of being one hell of a wide receiver for the Vikings right now. I believe the more they play him this year, and the more Kirk Cousins throws the ball to him, the more Treadwell is going to shine.

If he can stay healthy, and the Vikings afford him the opportunities, I can see Treadwell having a huge season, even if he is still a backup behind Diggs and Thielen.

Confidence Level: Moderate