T.J. Hockenson Can Be Vikings de Facto WR2

T.J. Hockenson Can Be Vikings de Facto WR2
Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson. © Junfu Han via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

T.J. Hockenson dropped out of the sky for the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday, joining his ex-NFC North foe after a trade by the Detroit Lions.

Minnesota traded a 2nd-Round pick from 2023 and a 2024 3rd-Round pick to the Detroit Lions for tight end T.J. Hockenson, a 2023 4th-Round pick, and a conditional 2024 4th-Round pick. That’s a move down two rounds next April and one in April 2024.

In 2021, under a different leadership regime, the Vikings panic-traded for tight end Chris Herndon, donating a 4th-Rounder to the New York Jets — a deal that lives in infamy. Herndon was targeted seven times in the Vikings 2021 offense, so the Herndon deal was a 4th-Round draft pick for seven receiving attempts. Not ideal.

Hockenson will assuredly be used more than that, though, and he could even end up as Minnesota’s de facto WR2.

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Nov 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (88) scores a touchdown as Minnesota Vikings defensive back Chris Jones. © Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports.

What does that mean? Well, per target load, Hockenson has the talent and desire to be used like Travis Kelce in Kansas City or Marc Andrews in Baltimore. Vikings fans are fairly accustomed to a “common” workload for a TE, which is about 4-5 targets per game — the amount allotted to Irv Smith before his high ankle sprain.

That can all change with Hockenson, who was drafted in 2019 by Detroit to be used presumptively as much as a wide receiver. The Lions never truly effectuated that mission statement, which is probably why Hockenson now plays for the Vikings, not the Lions.

So far in 2022, the aforementioned Kelce is receiving 8.57 targets per game from Patrick Mahomes. Andrews is afforded 8.00 targets from Lamar Jackson. If Vikings so choose, that can be Hockenson, too.

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Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Chiefs constructed an offense — and won a Super Bowl in 2019 — via satiating Kelce and Tyreek Hill. A similar mindset can be applied to Hockenson and Justin Jefferson. In no way, shape, or form should Jefferson’s targets be reduced, but Minnesota can do both, involving Jefferson and Hockenson to the utmost.

It just sort of “works out” that the Vikings are already under-targeting Adam Thielen in 2022. He’s 32 and entering the twilight of his career. Adding Hockenson creates flexibility amid life after Thielen — whenever that may be — so general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah need not necessarily draft a wide receiver in Round 1 of the 2023 or 2024 NFL Draft. Hockenson is the buffer to either promote K.J. Osborn as WR2 or find a non-Osborn WR2 in Rounds 2-4 of an upcoming draft.

Or — and fans will love this — the Vikings can just have it all. That is: utilize Jefferson, get Hockenson his 7-8 targets per game, and then groom an extra eventual 1st-Round WR along the way. The Vikings now have options.

However, to fully maximize Hockenson’s pedigree, Minnesota now has the alternative to fabricate a Hill-Kelce zeitgeist. They didn’t have that option Monday morning.

Hockenson is more than capable of handling a WR2 workload if needed.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).