EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Despite a run on receivers right before they were on the clock, the Minnesota Vikings grabbed the one at No. 23 that they feel best fits their most glaring need.
For years, the Vikings searched for a big, physical receiver who could create mismatches on the outside and attack the ball in the air. Despite a disappointing 40-yard dash time and a gruesome leg injury in 2014, Ole Miss' 6-foot-2, 221-pound Laquon Treadwell was the guy the Vikings targeted with hopes that he'll fill that role as an immediate starter at split end.
"A lot of the routes that we throw are exactly what Treadwell does," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "After the season got over and you go through your year-end review, one of the things we talked about was we wanted to get a big receiver with a big catching radius. We just felt like with this football team, that was important for us to get some size out there.
"We got (Stefon) Diggs and Jarius Wright, kind of smaller guys, so that was part of it. And then, honestly, this kid is really a lot like what I'm trying to build for this football team. He's a tough, physical player who is a heck of a competitor. We obviously took him as a receiver, but he is the best blocking receiver that I have ever seen. I can't remember one that blocks as well as this guy has. That was another added bonus with him as well."
General Manager Rick Spielman acknowledged that Treadwell's 4.63 40 time at Ole Miss' pro day probably played a role in him still being on the board at No. 23. Spielman also said he expects the 20-year-old Treadwell to get faster the further he gets from the leg injury two years ago.
"And you have to look at the tape also," Spielman said. "We felt very strongly that he plays faster than he showed in his 40 time."
The first receiver off the board was a surprise when Cleveland took Baylor's Corey Coleman 15th overall. The next receiver came at No. 21 when Houston traded up a spot with Washington to take Notre Dame's Will Fuller. Washington then surprised most draft experts by going away from defensive needs to take TCU's Josh Doctson. Then the Vikings made it three straight receivers in the first round for the first time in the history of the draft.
Spielman wouldn't reveal how he had the receivers ranked, but he and Zimmer sure sounded like Treadwell was their top choice.
"We looked at all of them," Zimmer said. "But he was the one who stood out to us."
Spielman and Zimmer also addressed the gruesome leg injury that Treadwell suffered against Auburn in 2014. He broke his fibula and dislocated his ankle.
Spielman said Treadwell started last season looking "rusty" but slowly regained confidence in the leg and finished strong, catching three touchdown passes in Ole Miss' bowl game. For the season, Treadwell finished with 82 catches for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Zimmer and Spielman both have talked about quarterback Teddy Bridgewater needing to "let it loose" more in his third season. Having a big, physical target with large hands and a larger catch radius should make that easier to accomplish.
Many experts have compared Treadwell to Cowboys Hall of Famer Michael Irvin. Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner was Dallas' offensive coordinator when it won back-to-back Super Bowls with Irvin, quarterback Troy Aikman and running back Emmitt Smith in 1992 and 1993.
Treadwell appears to be much more low-key than The Playmaker. But he isn't shy. When asked on the NFL Network about playing under Turner and alongside a running back the caliber of Adrian Peterson, Treadwell smiled and said, "sounds like a Super Bowl to me."