The Forgotten Benefit of the Vikings’ Playoff Flop Against the Giants
The Vikings’ playoff flop in the opening round to the underwhelming New York Giants was, in a word, disheartening.
In just a single game, all of the naysayers were proven correct. While a lot of Vikings fans knew the team wasn’t truly elite, there was hope that the magic could continue. Unfortunately, the team’s only one-score loss of the year happened at the worst possible time: in the playoffs as the Vikings fell 31-24.
Obviously, it would have been far (far!) preferable to have won that game. However, it’s worth remembering that not doing so actually led to a distinct benefit to Minnesota: improved draft capital.
While working on the Kwesi Trade Tracker, I was considering the picks Minnesota received alongside T.J. Hockenson. As some of you will recall, the Vikings sent over a 2nd and 3rd to Detroit to get the talented tight end. Hockenson ventured to Minnesota with a 4th and conditional 4th in his back pocket, a reality that gets further consideration in the more recent Vikings’ Draft Pick War Chest.
Take a look at Jeremy Reisman – a great guest on Notes from the North – offering an explanation of how the conditional pick worked out:
The condition: if the Vikings win a playoff game, that conditional pick drops to a 2024 fifth-round pick. In other words, if the Vikings do well as a result of the trade, the Lions will not have to send back as much trade capital as originally agreed upon. However, if the Vikings don’t win a playoff game, that pick remains a 2024 fourth-round pick.
On Sunday night, the Vikings played New York Giants in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and they lost. That means the pick will stay a fourth-round pick.
Somewhat ironically, Hockenson was one of the players who did really well in the loss to the Giants. He turned his 11 targets into 10 catches and 129 yards, averaging a healthy 12.9 yards per catch. The play that stands out, though, is the fateful 4th & 8, a mind-numbingly poor decision from the QB1.
At this point, the focus has shifted to the future. The 2023 season awaits and Hockenson is staring down an extension, recently confirming he’s looking to stick around (as Lindsey Young notes): “I’m just out here playing football, having fun with the guys, really enjoying the city of Minneapolis & trying to get around these fans. This is a place I want to be.”
Based on the comments, fans can expect Hockenson to stick around for a little while.
Even better, the team will have an added 4th-rounder in the 2024 NFL Draft instead of a 5th. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is the value GM, the executive who publicly declares his fondness for getting value at every twist and turn with great consistency. Obviously, jumping from the 5th to the 4th isn’t akin to, say, climbing into the opening round, but it’s notable nonetheless.
Minnesota heads into the season seeking to maintain the NFC North. The last time the Vikings have snagged the division in back-to-back seasons was in 2008 and 2009. Being able to lean on Hockenson to help get an edge on the Lions will be vital for Minnesota’s offense.
Regardless of what happens on the field, the Vikings will be working with Detroit’s 4th-round selection going into the 2024 NFL Draft.
Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.