TJ Hockenson Projected to Struggle Without Kirk Cousins

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Tight end T.J. Hockeson joined the team after Minnesota Vikings’ general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah traded for him at the trade deadline during the 2022 NFL season. Hockenson immediately paid dividends, in which he proved himself to be another potential receiving threat in the Vikings’ high-octane offense.

Before the 2023 season, Hockenson signed a four-year extension worth up to $68.5 million. Hockenson’s $16.5 million average per year (APY) is the third highest amongst all tight ends in the NFL just behind Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and retired New York Giants’ Darren Waller.

A look at Minnesota Vikings’ T.J. Hockenson’s 2023 NFL Season

Last season, Hockenson was T-3rd as the highest graded tight end in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). He finished with an overall grade of 78.8 and a receiving grade of 82.4. This was just behind San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle (1st) and Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce (2nd). Not only that, he put up 95 receptions, 960 receiving yards, and five touchdowns over 15 games played.

Hockenson due for a regression without Kirk Cousins?

Despite the good numbers in 2023 with four different quarterbacks throwing him the ball over the course of the season, Anthony DiBona (Pro Football Network) named Hockenson as one Minnesota Vikings player that’s due for a regression in 2024.

The Minnesota Vikings are seemingly embracing a rebuild following the departure of former starting quarterback Kirk Cousins. Once Cousins went down for the Vikings last season, T.J. Hockenson didn’t have a ton of success.

Hockenson eclipsed the 70-yard receiving mark just once after the veteran QB was injured while surpassing that total three times in Cousins’ eight starts. Now Hockenson will be forced to move on with Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy splitting time.

Anthony DiBona (Pro Football Network)

DiBona really digs into the aspect of how Hockenson dropped off once former Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins went down due to the Achilles injury. DiBona really seems to think that Sam Darnold or J.J. McCarthy are massive downgrades.

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Although that may true, for now, Hockenson still put up 42 receptions, 482 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns over the course of weeks 9-15 last year. That was with three different quarterbacks who aren’t anywhere near Cousins’ talent level. It’s hard to believe that he won’t be able to replicate some of that production with either Darnold or McCarthy, both of which are better than Jaren Hall, Joshua Dobbs, and Nick Mullens.

Last year’s injury and how it could impact Hockenson in 2024

A “regression” could be difficult to measure in Hockenson’s case. What if he misses 4 or more games, recovering from the MCL/ACL injury, but performs well upon his return? His overall numbers will be down due to the missed games, but he still performed well?

Overall, it seems pretty unlikely that Hockenson will regress in 2024. He’s too good of a tight end and Hockenson has proven that over the course of his career. He’s one of the best pass catching tight ends in the NFL and it won’t matter who’s throwing him the ball.

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