I remember my trip to the Minnesota Vikings 2016 training camp very well. It was the first time that I had made the trek to Mankato, despite being a life-long fan. I think it was mostly because my dad was often too busy with harvest, youth football coaching, or some event or other for his five kids.
In fall of 2016, I was a “junior” in college. Truly, I was a sophomore in the amount of credits I had due to dropping a full semester my freshman year. My dad picked me up from Winona, where I was going to school at the time, and we headed out on a sunny warm August day.
We stopped for lunch at Subway in Byron. I ordered my usual oven-roasted chicken, American cheese, lettuce, pickles, tomato, and mayo. I was not experimenting with putting banana peppers or vinaigrette on that sandwich at that point.
We arrived in Mankato and stood in line for about an hour talking about what we thought of the team that year. I was excited to say the least. Teddy Bridgewater was ready to take over the team, Danielle Hunter and Erik Kendriks were looking to be a studs, and best of all, for me at least, we went and got my draft crush Laquon Treadwell.
I’m a bit nervous to say how excited I was about Treadwell. Many times, our website’s owner Joe Johnson has talked about how against drafting Treadwell he was at the time. However, I was drawn in by how Treadwell dominated in the college game.
He bullied people on tape, and was a perfect weapon for Teddy. A red zone target to compliment Kyle Rudolph. Any criticism of his poor athleticism was pushed aside for the argument of “game speed” vs measurements. I figured he would have a long and storied career in purple.
As we were leaving training camp that day, after watching Teddy throw perfect strikes and watching Treddy not drop a pass, I bought a screen printed Treadwell shirt. This might not seem like a big deal, but given that I was in college and the shirt was $35, which equates to almost to 30-racks of Hamm’s, it was a big investment.
I’ll never regret the purchase, although it is the worst Vikings related purchase I’ve made. I own an authentic Harrison Smith jersey, which I wore to the final Vikings game in the Dome, a Jared Allen jersey, and confusingly a Greg Jennings shirt. I guess I was really into buying mediocre receiver gear. Surprised I don’t have a Charles Johnson shirt.
Now, Treadwell’s career with the Vikings is over. He ends it with just 65 catches, 701 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns. So, he won’t be entering the Vikings ring of honor anytime soon, but at least he’s not as hated in Minnesota as he was in the last few seasons. After being cut and re-signed, it seemed like fans were happy whenever they saw him do well. It was no longer “why can’t he do that more? He was a first round pick.” It was “Look! Treadwell caught one. How silly.”
Okay, my draft crush didn’t pan out, and by this point I’m sure Joe is laughing at how much of a fool I’ve been (or crying). However, I’ll point out that Treadwell was one of the last of the 2016 draft class to leave the organization. Kentrell Brothers is still up in the air as far as I can tell, but I think it unlikely that he stays in Minnesota.
The 2016 draft class was exciting and fun, but never panned out to what it could have been. Let’s start at the top.
Laquon Treadwell: (Rd 1, pick 23)
I’m already embarrassed enough at this point. Next.
Mackensie Alexander: (2, 54)
Another Mike Zimmer early round defensive back that is now gone. Mack had a couple decent years as the Vikings Nickel, but is now in Cincinnati with Trae Waynes. Side note, does anybody else find it ironic that Zim’s proteges are now flocking back to the Bengals?
Willie Beavers: (4, 121)
Another mediocre mid-round offensive lineman pick by Rick Spielman. Rick’s hit on some big talent, but guys like Beavers and TJ Clemmings are why questions abound. Beavers only stuck around the team for a year or so, and then went out the door.
Kentrell Brothers: (5, 160)
A decent special teams player and depth linebacker. Brothers is currently an unrestricted free agent, but might feel like he has more opportunity somewhere else. (He does.)
Moritz Bohringer: (6, 180)
My slight redemption! Bohringer was an internet sensation with his crazy highlight real. However, he was playing in Germany against players that were the skill level of a mid-tier high school team. That said, Joe Johnson was huge on him as he had as good a combine/pro day as anybody since Moss (he did). So who’s the real loser now Joe? (It’s me for thinking Treadwell would amount to anything.)
David Morgan: (6, 188)
I feel bad about this one. Morgan was always a really likeable guy who seemed like a hard worker. He did well in preseason and even had some flashes in the regular season, but he was mostly a blocker and with the Vikings drafting Irv Smith Jr, and his injury, last season he was the odd man out. Best of luck to the guy.
Stephen Weatherly: (7, 227)
If I had to pick a guy from this draft that I still wish was on the team, Weatherly would be it. He worked his way up to being in the rotation from the practice squad. In 2018, he started in Everson’s Griffen absence and did very well. He signed a pretty rich contract to play in Carolina, with Teddy Bridgewater, and I hope he does well.
Jayron Kearse: (7, 244)
Probably the second player that I was most excited about from this draft. Kearse, the nephew of former Tennessee Titans great Jeyvon Kearse, was on a stout Clemson defense. More than that, he’s a physical freak. He’s a linebacker playing defensive back. He never materialized in coverage, but he was an excellent special teams player and occasional extra defensive back. He sealed the game against the Denver Broncos this year, and I wish Zimmer had given him more of a chance.
So, the 2016 draft wasn’t Rick Spielman, or maybe Mike Zimmer’s, best. Nobody is left, assuming Brothers leaves. 5/7 of the players are still, again assumedly, in the league, but none were brought back with the team.
Part of that is the cap situation the team is in, but a couple of them are certainly personality problems on some level. Mack Alexander went to Cincy for very little while the Vikings have no starting cornerbacks still on the team. Perhaps he just thinks Cincinnati is a more vibing town than the Twin Citites.
Jayron Kearse has expressed his frustration with not getting many opportunities loudly on Twitter. Maybe Kearse didn’t deserve to start over the likes of Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith, but maybe Mike Zimmer could have pushed his ego aside to try to retain a great physical talent and give him a chance.