5. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Vikings
We’re going to find out a lot about Treadwell any way you slice this year since teams generally want to see some kind of return-on-investment from their first-round picks.
2016 was in essence a redshirt season for the long and physical SEC product, who couldn’t earn game-day reps due to his inability to consistently separate from defenders in practice.
If the young man knows anything about head coach Mike Zimmer, it’s that the 60-year-old former defensive coordinator expects a lot out of his rookies and has been stingy with several new arrivals in the past, including Stefon Diggs, Trae Waynes and Erik Kendricks just to name a few.
But while Treadwell has shown signs of turning the corner in OTAs by coming down with a myriad of impressive catches, including those of the one-handed variety, he needs to make contested plays against tight coverage.
So, why is this imposing, but speed-deficient second-year player someone to closely monitor in exhibition play and throughout the regular season?
Because the Vikings quite simply need a weapon with Treadwell’s skill set to emerge in the worst way.
Outside of Kyle Rudolph, the offense lacks any sort of playmaker that can be targeted in the red-zone area.
Over the past three seasons, in fact, the Purple and Gold have been the only team that has annually produced more field-goal opportunities than touchdowns. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds with the ability to come down with jump balls, Treadwell can help reverse that trend.
Also, working in his favor is Michael Floyd’s four-game suspension, as the one-time Notre Dame standout is one relapse away from never playing another down in the NFL.