EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings had an obvious need at wide receiver.
They filled it, literally, in a big way.
Mississippi’s Laquon Treadwell was selected by the Vikings with the 23rd overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, giving a lagging passing attack a 6-foot-2, 221-pound target who led the SEC with 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
“We wanted to get a big receiver with a big catching radius. We just felt like with this football team it was important for us to get some size out there,” said coach Mike Zimmer, adding: “This guy’s a big, physical guy that little guys are going to have a hard time defending.”
Treadwell, the all-time leading receiver in Ole Miss history with 202 career catches, recovered from a gruesome left ankle injury in 2014. His 40-yard dash time of 4.63 seconds at his on-campus pro workout day certainly gave some teams pause, but the Vikings weren’t deterred.
“We felt very strongly that he was one of the top receivers in this draft,” general manager Rick Spielman said. “I think the 40 time may have knocked him some, but you have to go off what you see on tape.”
Baylor’s Corey Coleman was the first wide receiver off the board, snagged by Cleveland at No. 15. Houston flip-flopped with Washington to take Notre Dame’s Will Fuller at No. 21, and then TCU’s Josh Doctson followed. Spielman said the Vikings fielded calls from four teams trying to trade into their spot, but he balked. The run of wide receivers left little guarantee they’d be able find a top-tier player if they went lower.
Treadwell became the highest selection by the Vikings at the position since Percy Harvin went at No. 22 in 2009. They also took a wide receiver in the first round in 2013, when Cordarrelle Patterson was the pick at No. 29.
Treadwell was widely pegged as the top player at his position after the scouting combine, though the quartet with him, Coleman, Doctson and Fuller was relatively even in most analyses.
“I won’t give you how they were rated, but I know we thought very highly of him,” Spielman said.
Treadwell didn’t appear to be disappointed by being the last of the four top wide receiver prospects selected.
“I’m honored,” Treadwell said during an interview on NFL Network. “I’m just proud to be a part of the Vikings right now. It’s just a journey.”
Spielman compared Treadwell to Pro Football Hall of Fame member Michael Irvin and three-time Pro Bowl pick Anquan Boldin. The Vikings raved about Treadwell’s tenacity on the field, his ability to make catches in traffic and use his big body to his advantage.
“He is the best blocking receiver that I’ve ever seen,” Zimmer said.
UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, whose injured right knee cut short his junior season and clearly raised red flags around the league considering his tumble through the first round, was available at No. 23 to form a unique trio with fellow former Bruins linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Zimmer said the Vikings “almost” went with a defensive player, declining to divulge his identity.
“I always fight for defense,” Zimmer said.
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