Dane Mizutani: Vikings’ Kwesi Adofo-Mensah hit a home run with trade for T.J. Hockenson
Think of it as the GM pushing a large stack of his chips to the center of the table.
EAGAN, Minn. -- So much for that competitive rebuild.
A few hours before the NFL’s trade deadline on Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings made a blockbuster move by acquiring tight end T.J. Hockenson from the Detroit Lions in exchange for a couple of draft picks.
Though the trade sent shock waves across the league — not many realized the 25-year-old Hockenson was even available in the first place — it more importantly allowed general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to send a message that the Vikings were to be taken seriously.
Think of it as Adofo-Mensah pushing a large portion of his chips to the center of the table. He loves to compare the NFL to a poker game, and this is undoubtedly his most aggressive raise so far.
It’s absolutely the right call with the Vikings currently sitting comfortably atop the NFC North, 3½ games clear of both the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
With the Vikings poised to run away with the division, and the NFC as a whole seemingly devoid of an elite team outside of the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles, Adofo-Mensah owed it to his players to raise the ceiling for this particular group
That’s exactly what the addition of Hockenson does for the Vikings.
The No. 8 overall pick in the 2019 draft, Hockenson already has established himself as a Top 10 player at his position. He has 186 receptions for 2,068 yards and 15 touchdowns to this point in his career and has developed a reputation as a solid blocker.
Now it’s on coach Kevin O’Connell to maximize Hockenson’s strengths.
It’s no secret that the Vikings have struggled on offense at times this season. Though quarterback Kirk Cousins has a talented group of playmakers at his disposal, it’s been rare for everything to fire on all cylinders.
More often than not, if an opposing team has found a way to shut down star receiver Justin Jefferson with a double team, or even a triple team, the Vikings haven’t gotten nearly enough production from veteran receiver Adam Thielen or young receiver K.J. Osborn, among others.
That’s where Hockenson could be a welcomed presence. He has 26 receptions for 395 yards and three touchdowns this season, and his 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame makes him the perfect security blanket for a quarterback who loves to check down.
It’s not hard to imagine Hockenson racking up yards underneath with opposing teams focused on Jefferson over the top. He’s averaging 15.2 yards a reception this season, which is tops among tight ends, and a bulk of that production has come after the catch.
That’s exactly the type of player the Vikings need right now. Especially with tight end Irv Smith Jr. being placed on injured reserve with a high-ankle sprain that is expected to keep him out for a couple of months at a minimum.
Not surprisingly, acquiring Hockenson wasn’t cheap; the Vikings surrendered a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick. It gets a little easier to stomach when considering the fact that the Lions kicked in a 2023 third-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick.
The fact that Hockenson is under contract means this blockbuster move can help in both the short and long term. It’s not like the Vikings just traded for some rental player they will lose for nothing this offseason.
In that sense, Adofo-Mensah accomplishes his goal of contending for a Super Bowl in the present while still planning for the future.
Wait. Maybe this move fits the mold of a competitive rebuild after all.
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