In 2015, the Minnesota Vikings made Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes the No. 11 overall pick in the NFL Draft. He proceeded to play only 215 snaps as a rookie, 29.1 percent of the Vikings' defensive snaps overall.
The next year, the Vikings made Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell the No. 23 overall pick. Through five games, Treadwell has played only 11 snaps and was actually inactive for a game.
This is the kind of thing that normally makes a team look bad -- two straight first-round picks not being able to get on the field during their rookie seasons. Vikings GM Rick Spielman, though, says the team has taken this approach by design.
Rick Spielman admitting that Trae Waynes and Laquon Treadwell weren't ready to play early on in their rookie seasons.— JR (@JReidDraftScout) October 15, 2016
This quote is great. pic.twitter.com/pfrZ2v44oj
At least for Waynes, it's arguable whether or not the strategy has worked out in Year 2. He has already played 220 snaps in his sophomore season, per Pro Football Focus, up to 63.8 percent of the team's total.
He has been fairly solid in coverage, allowing a passer rating of only 64.5 on throws in his direction. He was picked on for 15 catches for 184 yards over the first two weeks of the season when Xavier Rhodes was injured, but has allowed only four catches for 35 yards in the last three games. However, much of that is likely due to the fact that he's played only 76 snaps combined in those three games (with his snap percentage declining with each passing week), when he played 67 in each of the first two. He just hasn't been on the field as often, so he hasn't been thrown at quite as much either.
Treadwell obviously has not gotten the chance to show much of anything yet (he's only been on the field for three pass plays and he wasn't targeted on any of them), running clearly behind Stefon Diggs, Charles Johnson, Adam Thielen, Cordarrelle Patterson, and even Jarius Wright in the pecking order. Diggs, a fifth-round pick in 2015, was also kept under wraps for the first few weeks of his rookie season last year, but by the time he made his debut in Week 4 he was already playing more than half the team's offensive snaps.
Given the way Spielman is talking about Treadwell, we may not be seeing much more of him for the rest of this season, either.