Vikings Tight End Has ‘Nothing Dynamic to Him’

T.J. Hockenson
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

It came as a big surprise when Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah traded for T.J. Hockenson right before the trade deadline approached. “Why is this guy available for a second- and third-rounder?” was the feeling around the league, especially since the Vikings also received a pair of fourth-round picks in return. Fans of the purple team still don’t know the answer to that, as Hockenson played wonderfully in his first partial season in Minnesota.

Vikings Tight End Has ‘Nothing Dynamic to Him’

Nothing Dynamic to
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Hockenson replaced injured Irv Smith Jr. after his arrival and immediately clicked with quarterback Kirk Cousins. In the first game in a purple jersey, Hockenson caught all of his nine targets for 70 yards in a victory over the Washington Commanders. Many Vikings fans thought that the game wouldn’t have been won without him bailing out the offense multiple times in crucial plays.

In 11 games with the Vikings, Hockenson caught 70 passes for 648 yards and 3 touchdowns (playoff game included). The tight end virtually functioned as the second option in the passing game, helping to take some pressure off Justin Jefferson. In the postseason game against the Giants, the tight end logged 129 yards on 10 catches.

But not everyone is sold on the abilities of the Pro Bowler despite his excellent season. In ESPN’s newly released tight end rankings – voted by NFL executives, coaches, and scouts – Hockenson ranked 6th.

  1. Travis Kelce
  2. George Kittle
  3. Mark Andrews
  4. Dallas Goedert
  5. Darren Waller
  6. T.J. Hockenson
  7. Kyle Pitts
  8. Evan Engram
  9. Pat Freiermuth
  10. Dawson Knox

Kelce and Kittle should be obvious. Andrews struggled with injuries in 2022 but had some extremely productive seasons prior to that and still put up over 800 yards despite missing a few games. After those three, there is some normal disagreement. Goedert and Waller also had injury-plagued seasons but the rankings are close and it’s not egregious to have Hockenson at the 6th spot.

Justin Jefferson Weighs in
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

However, a ridiculous aspect is that at least one person didn’t have Hockenson as one of his ten best tight ends in the league just after he finished second in receiving yards among tight ends. His highest ranking was 4th.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler wrote about the tight end: “Hockenson is a cornerstone player for Minnesota’s offense. After the Vikings executed the rare in-division trade with Detroit to acquire Hockenson, the tight end rewarded the team with 62 receptions for 583 yards from Weeks 8 to 18. Both were top-two finishes among tight ends, and Hockenson finished the year with career highs in receptions (86) and receiving yards (914).”

He is indeed a cornerstone of the organization and is expected to sign a contract extension at some point during the summer. Currently, Hockenson is scheduled to play under his fifth-year option, and the Vikings are likely looking to sign him to a big deal.

What Folks Craved from Irv Smith, They're Getting from the New Guy.
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports.

One NFL executive isn’t a fan of the 26-year-old. Fowler quoted an ‘NFL executive’: “He’s a good player but nothing dynamic to him in the pass game and average in the run game. He’s the classic case of a player that does everything well but nothing exceptional.”

Nothing dynamic to him? Hockenson doesn’t run as fast as Kyle Pitts but that doesn’t mean he’s not dynamic. And even if he isn’t extremely fast, that doesn’t take away from his production and his receiver skills. Kelce doesn’t run past people a lot and nobody would describe him with the words “nothing dynamic to him in the pass game.”

A different “high ranking NFL official” is quoted praising Hockenson: “Really dynamic route runner with speed, size, quickness — attacks football in the air and has some better yards after the catch than given credit for. Decent blocker, three-down-impact player.”

That description reminds Vikings fans much more of their star.

Baltimore Ravens tight end Josh Oliver (84) is embraced by center Tyler Linderbaum (64), right, as Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (89), left, looks on after Oliver scored a touchdown during the fourth quarter of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Jaguars edged the Ravens 28-27. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

A positive note is that new free agent signing Josh Oliver received one or more votes and is listed in the group of “others receiving votes.”

Oliver signed a lucrative three-year $21 million contract and is primarily viewed as a blocking tight end with some untapped upside in the passing game. That skill is highly regarded in the NFL but not among fans, leading to him flying under the radar.

The new player could be a key to unlocking Hockenson even more in the passing attack, as he doesn’t have to focus on blocking as much as last season. The duo is also crucial in the attempt to improve the disappointing rushing offense.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt