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By: Ryan Mathews
Grade the trade.
This year’s NFL trade deadline wasn’t short on excitement—and the Detroit Lions found themselves at the center of it all.
In the day’s first blockbuster move, the Lions dealt former Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson and a pair of fourth-round picks in consecutive seasons (2023, 2024 conditional) to the division rival Minnesota Vikings for a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick.
Knowing the details of the deal, there’s only one thing left to do, which leads us to today’s Question of the Day…
What grade do you give the T.J. Hockenson trade?
Hockenson was a popular name thrown around as a trade candidate for a Lions team that likely found themselves having internal discussions about selling given their 1-6 start. However, I also think that the Lions could have found themselves content with wanting to see how some of the depth on their team can play over the second half of the season.
But that doesn’t apply to Hockenson.
The Lions knew what they had in the former No. 8. overall pick, and it wasn’t what he was billed to be: a well-rounded tight end who could make a difference both receiving and blocking. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah wrote in his pick-by-pick analysis in 2019 that Hockenson was “a dominant run blocker” and “more than adequate in the pass game.” And to his credit, Hockenson has lived up to being more than adequate in the pass game. He hasn’t, however, shown the same skill and promise of being a difference-maker as a run blocker.
Maybe the backlash to this deal from some Lions fans is the sunk cost fallacy eating away at them, especially since the discourse surrounding Hockenson each offseason is started with the same question: “Is this going to be the year he really puts it all together?” Without ever seeing him live up to the potential that came with the hype and a top-ten selection, getting just a second and third-round pick in return—while shipping back two fourth-round picks with Hockenson—might seem like a net loss.
It was time for the Lions to move on, and it was time for Hockenson to go and earn a second contract that Detroit just wasn’t willing to give him. An underrated part of this trade is the Lions freeing up over $9 million in cap space next season by moving on. Detroit also essentially moves up from the fourth to the second round in next year’s draft, and moves up from the fourth (potentially the fifth if the Vikings win a playoff game) to the third in 2024.
And while all of that sounds like a net positive for a player the Lions weren’t interested in extending, there’s something to be said about shipping out talented players once viewed as foundational to your franchise. Does it just signal the Lions are even further away than they were… a year ago?
Hockenson didn’t seem like a fit from this perspective: when the Lions skill position players are healthy, where did Hockenson fit in the pecking order? Fourth? Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift, and Jameson Williams are the names Lions fans hope to see on the field together, and that relegates Hockenson to being an awfully expensive fourth option. Beyond the questions of usage, his shortcomings as a blocker limited his effectiveness in an offense that wants to use heavy sets to move people off the line of scrimmage.
For now, this seems like a trade the Lions were comfortable making because of not only the return but because they can get a better look at the now-healthy James Mitchell and an extended look at Brock Wright. At 1-6, the deal can be made now instead of having to wait for the offseason or next year’s draft.
Originally posted on Pride Of Detroit