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The Vikings added a versatile weapon on offense by drafting tight end Bucky Hodges. Daniel House discusses how his skill-set adds another matchup threat in the Minnesota offense.
Updated: May 16, 2016 11:15 a.m.
By: Daniel House
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By: Daniel House
The Vikings wanted to add more versatile playmakers to their offense through the draft. They did this by selecting an extremely athletic tight end. Bucky Hodges provides the Vikings with a pass catcher they can place all over the field. Hodges measures in at 6-foot-6 and 257 pounds, but managed to run a 4.56 40-yard dash at the combine. More impressive is his 39" vertical and his 11'2" broad jump (a combine record). Hodges brings an incredible amount of athleticism and size to the Vikings' offense.
The team has lacked a tight end who can be split outside like a receiver. Not to mention, they haven't had a tight end who can create plays after the catch. Kyle Rudolph is more of a possession style red zone tight end, while Hodges can create plays all over the field. Hodges has work to do as a route-runner, however, he is making strides as a converted quarterback. He needs to sharpen his routes out of the break and prevent rounding. Nonetheless, his ability to win contested catches by having superb position on the defensive back is impressive. When he tracks the ball, he wins at the catch point nearly every time. It's impressive, considering his ball tracking skills are still evolving as he adjusts to the tight end position. In addition, he had the tendency to drop passes far too often, but this improved as he played more games down the stretch of his career at Virginia Tech.
He is very raw in many aspects of his game and it is expected as he continues to convert to the tight end position. With some coaching, the talent he has can be completely garnered. Over the past three years, Hodges caught 20 touchdowns at Virginia Tech and is the all-time leading receiver among tight ends. He did all of this while being extremely rough around the edges as a player. If he can continue to grow as a player and get more coaching from a route running and fundamental standpoint, he has a chance to be a major threat in this offense. Hodges has another gear when he breaks out of his routes, which makes him tough to cover when he gets separation. He consistently gets space when he sets up the defensive back and kicks into that second gear.
I look for Hodges to play in the slot, outside, and as a traditional tight end in this scheme. He will be a true hybrid weapon the Vikings deploy, especially in the red zone. In the clip below, Hodges runs a fade up the sideline when he's split out wide. He displays his ability to have a huge catch radius on a consistent basis. Hodges can make plays like a wide receiver when his fundamentals become more refined over time. At times, Hodges has displayed impressive adjustment skills, making over-the-shoulder catches look easy.
The thought of having Laquon Treadwell, Michael Floyd, Bucky Hodges, and Kyle Rudolph on the field during red zone situations is very enticing. Hodges will require help when he is matched up with a cornerback in the red zone. However, with other options, what will the opposing defense prioritize?
I have been an advocate for adding a tight end that can create after the catch for the last three seasons. Kyle Rudolph simply cannot pick up enough yards after contact for my liking. Hodges is like a big-play wide receiver after the catch and has an ability to make difficult contested catches in traffic. He is a threat at all three levels of the field and will win battles against linebackers across the middle. His size and catch radius make him a massive matchup threat for opposing defensive units. When he can get better as a route runner, he'll become even more of a dynamic weapon at the next level.
The clip below is an example of how Hodges can win simply off size, speed, and overall athleticism. Imagine when he develops more skill in his route tree -- the potential is off the charts.
In another clip, Hodges shows his ability to get the defender on his hip, hauling in a tough catch in traffic. He can be a threat up the field and across the middle. This year, Rhett Ellison won't be running the crossers off a rub like the Vikings frequently ran last year. Hodges will be getting the ball in his hands in those situations. The ability to have a tight end that can flex outside leaves more 1-on-1 opportunities for your other wide receivers to have single coverage and space to work. The Vikings wanted to add a matchup threat at tight end, and although, they swung and missed on Jared Cook, they were fortunate a player like Bucky Hodges slid down the draft board.
The final clip I picked was a play where the quarterback tried to create a play. Hodges came back on the ball and managed to shield himself from the defender, high-pointing the pass in traffic. Hodges is fantastic at getting position on defensive backs and tracking the ball into his frame. He will win contested catch matchups at any spot on the field. This is particularly valuable in the red zone, as I discussed earlier.
A theme from this Minnesota draft class was to add playmakers on offense. They needed weapons to pair with the bolstered protection they added in free agency. Hodges is a project, but has all the potential to be an impact player. His driven personality and strong work ethic, combined with his athleticism/talent will make him a player worth monitoring as the Vikings take the practice field in July at training camp.