How important was TJ Hockenson to Minnesota?

TJ Hockenson having fun
11/24/2022; Minneapolis, Minn., USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end TJ Hockenson. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Just before the trading deadline, the Minnesota Vikings made what is arguably the biggest deal for the best offensive player. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah grabbed Detroit Lions TJ Hockenson and provided Kevin O’Connell with another weapon in the passing game. How important was he to Kirk Cousins?

Drafted 8th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, TJ Hockenson has been a mainstay for the Detroit Lions. While he was originally targeted by Matthew Stafford, he’s also been used liberally by Jared Goff. The unfortunate reality is that none of the configurations in the Victory Column worked and Hockenson was clearly reinvigorated for the opportunity to play for a contender.

In 2022, the Lions relied heavily on Hockenson in the passing game as they operated with a young group of pass catchers. Hockenson played seven games for the Lions that season and had 26 receptions from his 43 goals. Production was immense, averaging just under 400 yards as Hockenson had a career-best 15.2 yards per reception. His three touchdowns also gave him an outside chance to surpass a career-high six.

Since moving to Minnesota, usage has increased significantly, although overall production has declined somewhat. In just four games with the Vikings, Hockenson has already reached his 26 receptions despite being targeted just 34 times.

He has under 200 yards from a career-low 7.4 yards per catch, but that’s mostly by design, too. Minnesota has used Hockenson as an above-average threat that can add to the deeper ranges operated by Justin Jefferson.

There were some thoughts that the Vikings might need another threat for the season before losing Irv Smith Jr.

Realistically, Smith Jr. hadn’t produced much this season, and while Hockenson ultimately fills that hole, he improves it significantly. Rumors circulated that Brandin Cooks could be in play for the Vikings and while that may have been a positive addition too, there are arguments for how much he would move the needle.

At this point, it seems unlikely that free agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. would be interested 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 was everything the Vikings hoped he would be and more, and he must be excited by that reality too.

When taking over from Hockenson, the Minnesota Vikings knew they had their man for 2023 as well. The fit looked great on paper but had yet to match. It was more than successful and great to watch.

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Ted Schwerzler is a Twin Cities blogger focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He is active Twitter and writes weekly for Daily twins. As a former collegiate athlete and avid sports fan, it always seemed like a natural outlet to bring passion to our pro teams.

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