How Much Has T.J. Hockenson Mattered to Minnesota?

Week 16 vs
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Just before the trade deadline expired the Minnesota Vikings made arguably the biggest deal for the best offensive player moved. Grabbing T.J. Hockenson from the Detroit Lions, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah provided Kevin O’Connell with another weapon in the passing game. How much has he mattered to Kirk Cousins?

Drafted 8th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, T.J. Hockenson had been a mainstay for the Detroit Lions. While he was originally targeted by Matthew Stafford, he was utilized plenty by Jared Goff as well. The unfortunate reality is that neither configuration has worked in the win column, and Hockenson was clearly reinvigorated to be given an opportunity to play for a contender.

In 2022 the Lions leaned heavily on Hockenson in the passing game as they operated with a young group of pass catchers. Playing seven games for the Lions this season, Hockenson hauled in 26 receptions out of his 43 targets. The production was immense and tallied just shy of 400 yards as Hockenson had posted a career best 15.2 yards per reception. His three touchdowns also gave him an outside chance to surpass the career high of six.

Since moving over to Minnesota, the usage has jumped substantially even if the total production has dropped off a bit. In just four games with the Vikings, Hockenson already has matched his 26 receptions despite being targeted only 34 times.

He has less than 200 yards due to a career low 7.4 yards per catch, but that’s also largely by design. Minnesota has utilized Hockenson as an over the middle threat that can contribute underneath the deeper routes being ran by Justin Jefferson.

There was some thought that the Vikings needed another receiving threat even before the lost Irv Smith Jr. for the season.

Realistically though, Smith Jr. hadn’t produced much this season, and while Hockenson ultimately fills that hole, he upgrades it substantially. Rumors swirled that Brandin Cooks could be in play for the Vikings, and while that may have been a positive addition as well, there’s an argument to be made as to how much he would move the needle.

At this point it seems unlikely that free agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has interest in joining the Minnesota Vikings. That being said, someone of that caliber would be a significant addition alongside the likes of Jefferson and Thielen. For now, Hockenson has been everything the Vikings hoped he would be and then some, and he has to be thrilled by that reality as well.

When acquiring Hockenson, the Minnesota Vikings knew they had their man for 2023 as well. The fit looked great on paper but still had to come together. It’s been beyond successful and great to watch.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.

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