Alas, Vikings Have Franchise TE.
By now, everyone has heard the exciting news about Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah using more draft capital to acquire former Detroit Lions TE TJ Hockenson. Hockenson, who is currently 5th in receiving yards amongst TEs, went to bed on Monday night 1-6 and woke up 6-1.
Minnesota hasn’t experienced consistency at TE since the Kyle Rudolph days just a few seasons ago. Before Rudolph was Visanthe Shiancoe, and fans haven’t heard those names in a while. It shows how long it’s been since Minnesota has had a consistent player blocking and receiving on the edge of the offensive line.
Hockenson Contract Details
An odd stat is Minnesota and Detroit both currently score an average of 24.7 points, which ranks ninth in the league (173 total). However, on defense, Minnesota has given up 144 points, while Detroit has given up 225 (worst in the league).
So, why would Detroit trade away one of their offensive stars, who’s in their prime, to a division rival, for only a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick?
Hockenson’s rookie contract is up next season, and perhaps Detroit didn’t want to pay the $9.4 million he is projected to receive next season. Minnesota could extend and restructure that contract, but Minnesota will pay him $536,111 this season and not have to restructure any other players’ current contracts, which is always a plus.
Why Does This Work for Minnesota?
Injuries at TE have been a significant factor so far this season. Irv Smith Jr will miss 8-10 weeks with a high ankle sprain, and Ben Ellefson has been dealing with a groin injury since Week 4, leaving Johnny Mundt as the healthy tight end.
Another huge pro to the trade? Hockenson stands at 6′ 5″ and weighs 251 pounds. They are making Hockenson the physically largest offensive weapon in Minnesota’s already preeminent arsenal.
His numbers this season are considerable. Hockenson has 26 receptions on 43 targets for a total of 395 yards and 3 touchdowns in 7 games this season, averaging 56.4 yards per game and 15.2 yards per reception this season (most in the NFL among TEs). This prevents Minnesota from using a draft pick on a TE in future drafts.
What to Expect from Hockenson
The Iowa native has been a top TE in the league since drafted out of Tight End U and compares to former Hawkeye teammate George Kittle. a dual-threat talent who can block and receive at a consistent and high level.
At age 25, expect this guy to get more targets based on his skill alone. If two-time Pro Bowler Justin Jefferson is dealing with double coverage and Kirk needs another big target who can turn a check down into insane yards after the catch, it’s a recipe for offensive success, especially in the redzone where he’s patient and finds the opening. Toss it towards him in the redzone in one-on-one predicaments, and touchdowns will be scored.
Nov. 2nd Press Conference Interview
When asked about his perspective of Kirk Cousins, Hockenson replied, “First impression is he’s a great dude. Super communicative. Just a great guy to have in the locker room. A guy that can lead a team somewhere and just really what we’re here to do.”
Introducing a New Playbook
Hockenson was also asked, “What would the process be now to get up to speed on this offense? How much crossover is there?”
He swiftly replied, “I’m grinding. There’s a lot of in’s and out’s, but football is football. This will be my fourth offense now in my career, and now it’s learning new terminology. There’s outside zone, there’s scheme, there’s route running, there’s concepts, and it’s just what you call it. It’s really just learning a new language, and I’m trying to learn that as fast as I can.”
One reporter was curious where this offense would go throwing Hockenson in the mix of offensive stars like Jefferson and Cook.
Hockenson said, “You got a lot of key guys. Thielen, JJ, and Dalvin in the backfield. I’m just here to make a piece and be able to help those guys. JJ expands the field. They’re trying to play too high and leave safeties, but if I can do something in the middle of the field and make them get out of that, it just opens up everybody. You know, it’s complimentary football when you have players like this. Just being able to stretch out the defense and stress in any way you can, so I think that’s something you’ll have to ask another defense.”
To finish the interview, Hockenson noted, “I’m excited to be a part of a program that we can do something with, and we’re looking beyond 17. I’m looking down the road. We gotta take it week by week obviously and win the next one but listen, there’s no telling where this will go, and I’m trying to be a piece of that.”