It’s trade deadline day in the NFL! So I thought, “What better time to talk about TJ Hockenson than the day he was traded?” As we all know by now, Hockenson was traded from the Lions to the Vikings earlier today. The Lions sent the 4th year tight end, a 2023 fourth-round pick, and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick to Minnesota in exchange for a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick.
This deal comes in the wake of the injury to the Vikings (former) starting tight end, Irv Smith Jr. The high-ankle sprain will keep him sidelined for 8-10 weeks. With that, Minnesota felt the need to go out and acquire a playmaker at the TE position. More updates on Smith’s injury on our weekly Fantasy Injury Team podcast, which will be available for your ears by Thursday morning.
Fantasy Season So Far
It’s obvious that Hockenson is an upgrade for the Vikings at the tight end position from a real-life football perspective. No disrespect to Irv Smith Jr., but Hockenson was taken in the top ten of the first round of the 2019 NFL draft for a reason. Still, outside of a Pro Bowl season in 2020, the former Iowa Hawkeye has left something to be desired in his short time in the NFL.
In half-point PPR scoring, Hockenson has finished as TE31, TE4, and TE15 in his first three full seasons. Through 7 games in 2022, he is currently TE5. However, 50% of his fantasy points this season came in Week 4 against Seattle, when Amon-Ra St. Brown was out with injury. Per my Consistency Ratings, Hockenson has been a top-12 tight end just 33% of the time so far this season. As we can see, he hasn’t been a model of consistency this season in Detroit
The Vikings Offense vs The Lions Offense
But what if a change in scenery provides more of a floor for TJ, while still keeping the possibility for a spike week we know he is capable of producing? In that Week 4 game where Hockenson exploded for almost 35 fantasy points, he commanded a 30% target share. He’s not likely to hit that number again this season with the likes of Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and Alexander Mattison on his new team.
What’s more, the Vikings don’t really target the Tight End position all that much. So far this season, Kirk Cousins has targeted the tight end position 20.3% of the time, which is good for 19th best in the NFL. This rate is actually slightly below what Jared Goff was targeting the position at. However, due to the slight difference in passing volume between the two teams, each team has targeted the position 50 times this season. The Vikings use their running backs a little less in the passing game, while they target their wide receivers slightly more than Detroit.
TJ Hockenson Upcoming Schedule
So what does this all mean? As far as the difference in offenses, there isn’t much that would cause a huge swing in Hockenson’s fantasy value either way. The Lion’s defense is way worse than the Vikings’. Changing teams may lead to less passing opportunities overall since Minnesota doesn’t have to get into as many shootouts, without taking schedule into account.
What about the Vikings schedule and how their upcoming opponents fare against tight ends? From here until the Fantasy Championship, Minnesota will face the following teams. Rank vs TE in parentheses, 1 = toughest, 32 = easiest matchup: Commanders (1), Bills (10), Cowboys (8), Patriots (27), Jets (16), Lions (28, revenge game?), Colts (22), Giants (21), and Packers (4). Overall, that’s a pretty good schedule. Also, 6 of those games are indoors. I envision a lot of high scoring affairs for the Vikings down the stretch.
If you have TJ Hockenson on your team, I would view this as a slightly positive move for his fantasy value. Yes, he joins a better team who will be in the lead more often than not. This will create less “garbage time” points where the Lions would just be throwing nonstop because their defense couldn’t stop a Pee Wee team. But, the Vikings gave up draft capital for him, so they obviously have plans to use him in this offense.
He will have no competition at his own position for targets. Only Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen present somewhat of a problem in that department. But defenses will have to key in on those two more often than not. This could open up a lot of room in the middle of the field for Hockenson to operate. His floor before this trade could not have been any lower, honestly. I believe you will see a more consistent option at tight end with the game-breaking ability still in his back pocket. I would not go as far to say that he is a “trade for” target, but if someone in your league is down on him because of the unknown with a new team, I would kick the tires on a trade for TJ Hockenson.