MINNEAPOLIS -- Almost as much as they've shuttled through quarterback options since the end of Brett Favre's time in Minnesota, the Vikings have rifled through different options to add some explosiveness to the other side of their passing game.
Sidney Rice was the team's last 1,000-yard receiver, in 2009, and played only one more season in Minnesota after that. Since then, the Vikings have (in chronological order) built their passing game around Percy Harvin, gave Greg Jennings $18 million guaranteed, traded Harvin for a first-round pick, traded four picks to select Cordarrelle Patterson and spent another first-round pick on Laquon Treadwell.
The good news for the Vikings is they've acquired (somewhat by happenstance) their best young duo of pass-catchers in years. Stefon Diggs, coming off an 84-catch season, is only 23. And Adam Thielen, who signed a three-year contract extension after leading the team in receiving yards during a breakout season, is just 26.
Still, while the Vikings can relish the accomplishments of a fifth-round pick and undrafted free agent, they've got a big question to answer with their most recent first-rounder at the position. Treadwell caught just one pass last season, battling a puzzling foot injury at the beginning of the year, working through some frustration about his limited role and missing the Vikings' final three games with a sprained ankle. Though coach Mike Zimmer has sounded hopeful about Treadwell's 2017 prospects, the Mississippi product needs to make the most of what offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur called a "critical offseason."
Current WRs (2017 cap number in parentheses): Thielen ($3.746 million), Jarius Wright ($3.138 million), Treadwell ($2.257 million), Diggs ($671,928), Isaac Fruechte ($465,000), Moritz Böhringer ($465,000), Mitch Mathews ($465,000).
Player with most to prove in 2017: With a possible honorable mention to Wright (who seemed to fall out of favor in the offense a year after signing a contract extension), Treadwell is the pick here. It's difficult not to regard his 2016 season as a disappointment, given the fact he was only targeted three times and seemed imperceptive at times about what it takes to succeed in the NFL. He'll have a new teacher in wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell, the former Purdue head coach whom the Vikings hired to replace George Stewart, but it will be incumbent upon Treadwell to absorb coaching, improve on the field and build a rapport with Sam Bradford.
Draft need: The Vikings decided to let Patterson leave for the Oakland Raiders on a modest two-year deal, even after the enigmatic wide receiver seemed to find a role in Shurmur's offense. They could use another playmaker for their group, and they've visited with a number of wideouts before the draft, including Ohio State's Curtis Samuel. Zimmer said this offseason he envisioned the Vikings adding another receiver or two, and the Vikings could certainly spend one of their five picks from the second through fourth rounds on another target for Sam Bradford. They could stand to improve in the red zone, and while some of that could come from Treadwell developing, the Vikings might look for another sizable target after the departures of the 6-foot-2 Patterson and 6-foot-2 Charles Johnson.