The Chris Herndon Trade Is Not Like the Yannick Ngakoue Trade

Chris Herndon
April 5, 2019; New York, USA; New York Jets tight end Chris Herndon (89). Mandatory Credit: Photo-USA TODAY NETWORK

When the Minnesota VIkings traded a 2nd-Round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for EDGE rusher Yannick Ngakoue late in the summer of 2020, the excitement was palpable. Ngakoue, a sack merchant from the AFC, was supposed to pair with Danielle Hunter, creating one of the NFL’s most hectic pass-rushing forces.

That never happened.

Hunter was lost for the entirety of the 2020 NFL season to a neck injury. Meanwhile, Ngakoue patched together a few sacks amid the Vikings 1-5 start to the pandemic season but was traded to the Baltimore Ravens during the Week 7 bye. Put bluntly, Ngakoue — for some reason or another — did not fit with the Vikings defense. Perhaps the outcome could have been different with a healthy Hunter or a winning record. But the 2020 Vikings and Ngakoue did not jell.

So, general manager Rick Spielman clawed back a 3rd-Round draft pick from the Ravens via trade of Ngakoue. After the fact, that man is now named Patrick Jones II, an EDGE rusher slated for backup duty as a rookie in 2021.

Fast forward to late summer of 2021, and the Vikings shipped a 4th-Round pick to the New York Jets for tight end Chris Herndon and a 6th-Round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Let’s be clear: Other than the notion two trades occurred around the same time on the calendar in successive years, the two transactions are utterly different. And this is extremely straightforward.

Foremost, there is no verifiable proof Herndon will be the bonafide starter at tight end. Ngakoue was the undisputed starter at EDGE rusher with the temporary exodus of Everson Griffen from the franchise. Then, Hunter was hurt, and Ngakoue was the last man standing. With Herndon, it will be snazzy if he emerges as a TE1, but the Vikings have plans for Tyler Conklin to receive targets in the passing game.

Herndon is not the savior in the Vikings tight end room. Ngakoue was the hail mary source of optimism once Hunter was scheduled to miss all 16 games. Those are two different roles — indisputably. The peak version of Ngaoue should have registered about 10-12 sacks in 2020. The best form of Herndon will entail 700 receiving yards and 4-8 touchdowns — and that’s if Minnesota says the hell with Conklin (which won’t happen).

A starting defensive end is more impactful than a TE2 [who hopes to see TE1 action].

What’s more, a comparison of the draft capital exchanged by Spielman for Ngakoue and Herndon is apples-to-oranges. 2nd-Rounders are absolutely more valuable than 4th-Rounders — and it’s not even close. Herndon was swapped for a 4th-Round pick. Ngakoue fetched a loftier sum with a 2nd-Rounder. This is cut and dry.

These are the 12 picks by the Vikings from the 4th Round since 2015:

  • T.J. Clemmings
  • Willie Beavers
  • Jaleel Johnson
  • Ben Gedeon
  • Jalyn Holmes
  • Dru Samia
  • James Lynch
  • Troy Dye
  • D.J. Wonnum
  • Janarius Robinson
  • Camryn Bynum
  • Kene Nwangwu

Spielman stockpiles 4th-Round draft capital, so he will be able to find more of them in 2022, regardless of what Herndon does on the field in 2021.

None of those names should blow a Vikings fan out of the water. They’re serviceable dudes — and that’s what 4th-Rounders ordinarily provide.

2nd-Rounders, on the other hand, are mini-1st Rounders. Historically, they make a significantly bigger impact than men from the 4th Round. Too, Spielman is a 2nd-Round savant. Here’s a look at his picks in the 2nd round in the same timeframe (since 2015):

  • Eric Kendricks
  • Mackensie Alexander
  • Dalvin Cook
  • Brian O’Neill
  • Irv Smith Jr.
  • Ezra Cleveland

Those men, on the whole, are terrific football players. The aforementioned 4th-Rounders pale in comparison to Spielman’s 2nd-Round work.

This should be clear as day.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday along with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).