Trades are something to behold in today’s National Football League. They have been happening more and it’s mainly due to teams trying to capitalize on a potential Super Bowl window.
The Vikings’ new front office led by general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has already made three player trades but the most impactful one was the acquisition of T.J. Hockenson from the Lions.
The idea was that the Vikings needed to add another pass catcher to alleviate some of the pressure and attention from superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Kevin O’Connell said as such right after they traded for the tight end.
“I just think when you look at our offensive skill group – and we’ve talked a lot with you guys over the course of the first seven or eight weeks of the season, just how we’re being defended. We see some new things. We see a lot of tactics to try to limit Justin [Jefferson’s] impact and Adam [Thielen’s] impact, and K.J. [Osborn] as well as Irv [Smith, Jr.] and our backs. So adding a player of T.J.’s caliber in a moment where we’re really kind of coming into our groove and I see a fit with a lot of the things we try to do – a lot of things route-wise, schematics, how we run the ball – his fit in his role of being one of 11 to help us move the football. Situationally, I see some real opportunities for him – third down, red zone, 2-minute, things like that. It’s just a matter of bringing a player here that we feel has tremendous upside in our offense. We are in the middle of our season, so we’re not going to try to overload him. But at the same time, he’s already proven to be able to handle a lot, and we’ll just get him out on the practice field and see what we can have available to us this Sunday.”
Situationally is where Hockenson has thrived and it came to fruition against the New York Giants. On Christmas Eve, just under two months after the Vikings traded for Hockenson, he had his breakout game. 13 receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns to be exact. Cousins found him in a variety of ways, but the first touchdown shows the brilliance of head coach Kevin O’Connell and Hockenson’s diverse skill set.
Hockenson runs a post-corner route that finds him wide open due to the play-action and waggle from Kirk Cousins in the pocket. O’Connell liked the look and it’s something they had tried earlier in the game with Jefferson.
“We were in a big grouping there. He’s an attached tight end, kind of almost like a low cross route we call it on a keeper. Kirk is attacking the edge. We just allow JJ to change direction there, kind of lose his defender. Perfect look for the play. But then it's on Kirk and T.J. to execute there. Even with the multi
white-purple-white end zone, able to get his feet in. That was the only fear when I saw him running across the back, would he know where the actual back line was. Great pitch and catch by those guys. We had a similar play designed on one of those early third-and-short where JJ ran something pretty similar, taking a
shot there, hoping we would convert that one, but we didn’t. Wanted to be aggressive in those moments where we could dictate a little bit more on third-and-eight. They may be coming over the walls at you. You got to be careful at that moment.”
The addition of Hockenson has given them someone dynamic that they can isolate and trust as a top option. It’s needed since both Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn haven’t quite performed up to snuff. The second touchdown of the game showed off what the Vikings really needed in this offense: size.
He has been great over the course of the season and it bring up the question: is this the greatest trade in team history?
At this point, it’s at the very least among them. The Vikings have made a lot of great trades with some of them sending players away and a few where they acquired a player that made difference.
Traded Brad Johnson to Washington
Trade for Jared Allen
Trade Percy Harvin to Seattle
Trade Stefon Diggs to Buffalo
The Johnson and Diggs trades brought them back Daunte Culpepper and Justin Jefferson and they were or have been tremendous assets to the Vikings. Jared Allen helped establish a culture that ended with an NFC Championship Game appearance that should have been a trip to the Super Bowl. Even the Harvin trade was great because of the capital that it brought back with the trade demands he had made.
It’s too early for this trade to be viewed as one of the best in team history, but if Hockenson keeps this up, he’s well on his way to being that. His size and athletic profile are exactly what this team needs for the position and his growth potential is very high.