I see that the Vikings have signed Adam Thielen to a healthy new contract. They tagged him as a second-rounder, then gave him a three-year deal worth $17 million, with $11 million guaranteed and another $10 million possible in incentives. Makes me wonder what the team thinks of former first-rounder Laquon Treadwell.
Treadwell, recall, was the top receiver on some draft boards a year ago, and many expected him to be Minnesota’s leading receiver out of the box. Instead, he had some nagging injuries, struggled with the offense and hardly got on the field, catching one pass all year.
The Vikings, meanwhile, got really good play out of their other receivers. Stefon Diggs had a couple of games where he looked like he might emerge as a top-10 wide receiver – another T.Y. Hilton or Antonio Brown. And Thielen had some big games, most notably going over 200 yards at Lambeau. He looks like an above-average No. 2 receiver.
Where does this leave Treadwell? He came into the league far more heralded than those guys, but it will be hard for him to get his foot in the door. I’m expecting he’ll probably begin the season as their No. 3; if he starts making impressive catches, maybe he plays his way into a bigger role. Maybe Thielen or Diggs gets hurt.
The Vikings have seen two other receivers sign with other teams (Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson), so they’ll need other wide receivers to at least get on the field. They’ve got Treadwell, and they’ve got Jarius Wright, who’s been a decent slot receiver at times over the last four years.
This is a reminder that while a player can be selected in the first round, that’s not a guarantee of future success. And normally when a player doesn’t do much as a rookie, the probability of future success goes down.
Since the NFL moved to a 16-game schedule, 34 wide receivers selected in the first round have failed to catch 20 passes in their first season. This includes both Treadwell and Josh Doctson (who caught only 2 passes for Washington last year).
Of the previous 32, only eight went on to flip things around and have good careers. That’s measured subjectively, but in my opinion, if NFL teams were allowed do-overs, only eight of those players would have even been considered in the first round.
The jury is still out on a few of those. Breshad Perriman, Kevin White and Phillip Dorsett are all entering just their third year. And three others had at least some success. Tim McGee had a 1,000-yard season, Ike Hilliard came close, and Robert Meachem scored 10 TDs one year. But none of those six players would be selected in the first round (or maybe even the second) if the clock were backed up on those drafts.
The odds get even longer if you look simply at the probability of this kind of receiver turning it on in his second year. Of the previous 32, only four put up numbers good enough to merit being drafted in a typical fantasy league – Quick, Fryar, Moore and Morton. Santana Moss was the only other player to score more than 4 TDs, and he finished with only 433 yards.
So heading into 2017, I don’t expect I’ll be selecting Treadwell, even with a last-round flyer pick. Would make more sense to use such a pick on a non-descript backup tailback like Jeremy Langford or Cameron Artis-Payne.
Here’s my list of first-round wide receivers who failed to catch 20 passes in their first year. The numbers you see here are what they did in their second season. For the years on these guys, it’s the year they were selected (the year before the stats you see).
|STRUGGLING FIRST-ROUNDERS: SECOND YEAR|
|1979||Willis Adams, Clev.||8||165||20.6||0|
|1981||Mark Nichols, Det.||8||146||18.3||2|
|1981||David Verser, Cin.||4||98||24.5||1|
|1982||• Mike Quick, Phil.||69||1,409||20.4||13|
|1982||Anthony Hancock, K.C.||37||584||15.8||1|
|1982||Perry Tuttle, Buff.||36||385||10.7||3|
|1982||Lindsay Scott, N.O.||24||274||11.4||0|
|1984||• Irving Fryar, N.E.||39||670||17.2||10|
|1984||Clyde Duncan, St.L.||4||39||9.8||1|
|1986||Tim McGee, Cin.||23||408||17.7||1|
|1987||Mark Ingram, NYG||13||158||12.2||1|
|1987||• Haywood Jeffires, Hou.||2||49||24.5||1|
|1988||Wendell Davis, Chi.||26||397||15.3||3|
|1991||• Herman Moore, Det.||51||966||18.9||4|
|1992||Desmond Howard, Wash.||23||286||12.4||0|
|1993||• O.J. McDuffie, Mia.||37||488||13.2||3|
|1993||• Curtis Conway, Chi.||39||546||14.0||2|
|1994||• Johnnie Morton, Det.||44||590||13.4||8|
|1994||Thomas Lewis, NYG||12||208||17.3||2|
|1997||Ike Hilliard, NYG||51||715||14.0||2|
|1997||Yatil Green, Mia.||0||0||--||0|
|1998||Marcus Nash, Den.||0||0||--||0|
|2000||R. Jay Soward, Jac.||0||0||--||0|
|2001||• Santana Moss, NYJ||30||433||14.4||6|
|2004||Michael Jenkins, Atl.||36||508||14.1||3|
|2004||Rashaun Woods, S.F.||0||0||--||0|
|2007||Robert Meachem, N.O.||12||289||24.1||4|
|2009||Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oak.||26||366||14.1||1|
|2012||A.J. Jenkins, S.F.||8||130||16.3||0|
|2015||Breshad Perriman, Balt.||33||499||15.1||3|
|2015||Phillip Dorsett, Ind.||33||528||16.0||2|
|2015||Kevin White, Chi.||19||187||9.8||0|
|2016||Josh Doctson, Wash.||?||?||?||?|
|2016||Laquon Treadwell, Minn.||?||?||?||?|