The Detroit Lions pulled off something rare when they traded away Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson to the Minnesota Vikings — they started winning. After losing perhaps their best player on offense, they started generating a real push for the playoffs.
Though they fell short of the playoffs, the Lions are now favorites to win the division. At the same time, the Vikings were able to generate high-level production from Hockenson, who quickly became their second-best receiving weapon after Jefferson.
In that way, Hockenson covered not just for the injured Irv Smith Jr., who they expected to rely on that year, but for an aging Adam Thielen. This could be the rare NFL trade where both teams walk away happy.
T.J. Hockenson Trade Details
Hockenson was traded on the NFL trade deadline on Nov. 1, 2022.
The Vikings received:
- Tight end T.J. Hockenson
- 2023 fourth-round pick, No. 119 overall (S Chamarri Conner)
- 2024 fourth-round pick (would have been a 2024 fifth-round pick if the Vikings had won a 2022 playoff game)
The Lions received:
- 2023 second-round pick, No. 55 overall (WR Rashee Rice)
- 2024 third-round pick
The Vikings have not yet extended Hockenson, who is currently on his rookie contract and is playing 2023 under his fifth-year option. The two parties are currently in talks on an extension.
The Vikings did not select at No. 119 overall, trading the pick as part of a package to receive a 2024 fourth-round pick and the 134th overall selection, drafting safety Jay Ward.
The Lions did not select at No. 55 overall, trading the pick as part of a package to trade down multiple times to eventually acquire QB Hendon Hooker at 68th overall. They also acquired the 139th pick, which they used in a trade package for DT Brodric Martin at No. 96 overall.
Players Involved in the T.J. Hockenson Trade
No players were directly traded for T.J. Hockenson, but so far, the players most closely connected are receiver Rashee Rice, picked by the Chiefs, and Chamarri Conner, also picked by the Chiefs. This also opened space for the Lions to draft TE Sam LaPorta at 34th overall in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Who Won the T.J. Hockenson Trade?
It’s difficult to fully determine what the Lions’ total haul from the trade has been, much less what it will be after the 2024 draft concludes. Generally speaking, it might be fair to conclude that the Lions were able to secure Hooker and Martin as a result of the trade without seeing too much decline in offensive output.
In fact, the Lions became more efficient; in the first eight weeks of the season, they ranked 10th in points per game and 20th in expected points per play. After the trade, they ranked fifth in points per game and second in expected points per play.
If Hooker, Martin, or their future picks from the trade turn out to be big assets, this could mean the Lions walked away from the trade as happy as anyone could reasonably be.
The Vikings remained at the same level of efficiency before and after the trade, staying at ninth in points per game on either side of the deal and moving from 14th in EPA per play to 16th — a negligible difference.
Nevertheless, they were able to trade away essentially a second-round pick for a Pro Bowl-quality tight end. Hockenson immediately turned out to be a more efficient receiver than both K.J. Osborn and Thielen, and he’ll play a big role in how their offense evolves, especially as it moves to two-receiver sets and emphasizes TE play more often.
While tight ends are likely overvalued by NFL teams, given their overall impact, it still seems like the Vikings got their money’s worth from Hockenson.
A third, unlikely winner of the trade might be the Kansas City Chiefs. They ended up with both of the picks that were dealt from the 2023 draft and if either Conner or Rice turn out as big competitors — especially Rice, playing a position of need for the Chiefs — then they might end up even bigger winners than either of the teams directly involved in the trade.
As for players who won, it might be fair to say that both Iowa tight ends might count themselves as winners. Hockenson’s performance in Minnesota means he’s due for a big extension there, while LaPorta was picked at the top of the second round with a starting spot available to him for a team favored to win the division.
Rice might count himself lucky to be a Chief, too. With few receivers to compete with for a starting spot and the best quarterback in the NFL throwing to him, he could emerge from this as the person who gained the most from the trade without being involved with either team at all.