Minnesota Vikings: Offensive Player Spotlight – TE Bucky Hodges
The Minnesota Vikings wanted to add more versatility and play makers 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 split outside like a receiver. Not to mention, they have not 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. Bucky 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. However, 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 the Vikings expect him to continue to convert to the tight end position. With some coaching, they can completely garner the talent he has. 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 Minnesota Vikings deploy, especially in the red zone. Hodges has the ability to make plays like a wide receiver when his fundamentals become more refined over time. At times, Hodges has an incredible ability to track the ball and makes 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. Defenses will have to roll coverage when Hodges matches 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 will become even more of a dynamic weapon at the next level.
A theme from this Minnesota Vikings draft class was to add playmakers on offense. They needed weapons to pair with the bolstered protection they added in free agency. Bucky 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 Minnesota Vikings take the practice field in July at training camp.
Editors Note: This article can also be seen in our upcoming NFL Preview Edition.