NFL Splits Tool, Week 16: T.J. Hockenson Heads to Minnesota
We're heading into Week 16 of the fantasy football regular season. Over the offseason, I did an "NFL Splits" series, looking at historical trends to help predict the outlook of the 2022 season. I will be continuing the series during the season by using the FTN Splits Tool and looking at actionable takeaways from the previous weeks.
The Splits Tool allows me to experiment with different situations, such as active/inactive players, spreads, locations, and more, to get a better understanding of the rest of the season. Users can sign up for an FTN Fantasy subscription and gain access to all the tools needed to dominate their fantasy leagues.
The New Look Vikings
After finishing 8-9 in 2021 and logging a second consecutive losing season, it was time for a change in Minnesota, starting with the front office. The Vikings fired eight-year head coach Mike Zimmer and replaced him with former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. O’Connell had spent the last two seasons calling plays under Sean McVay and already had a relationship with Kirk Cousins from when he was the quarterback coach for Washington in 2017. After winning five of their first six games in 2022, the Vikings became legitimate contenders but still lacked playmakers. As a result, they acquired T.J. Hockenson in a rare divisional rival, adding more weapons to the passing game. In this article, I am going to look at how Hockenson’s arrival in Minnesota has impacted Cousins as well as the other Vikings’ pass catchers.
Kirk Cousins, QB
There was a lot of optimism surrounding Kirk Cousins’ outlook after being reunited with his former quarterback coach; however, he was just mediocre for the first six weeks, with no games eclipsing 300 passing yards. Since the Vikings traded for Hockenson, Cousins has thrown for 300 or more yards in three out of eight games while passing for 425-plus yards in his last two. With Hockenson in the lineup, Cousins is averaging only 2.96 more pass attempts per game but 47.33 more passing yards. He had his best game of the season last week, completing 34 of 54 passes for a season-high 460 yards and four touchdowns.
Justin Jefferson, WR
After a historic first two seasons in the NFL, Justin Jefferson has managed to be even better in year three, currently leading all wide receivers in targets (158), receptions (111), and receiving yards (1,623). The addition of Hockenson has resulted in a slight decrease in Jefferson’s receptions and receiving yards per game but has been mitigated by an increase in targets and touchdowns. Since Hockenson joined the team, Jefferson has finished as a top-5 wide receiver in five of his last seven games.
Adam Thielen, WR
At 32 years old, Adam Thielen has not been the same player he once was but has managed to stay healthy this season after missing 4-plus games in 2021. Since Hockinson’s arrival, Thielen is seeing slightly fewer targets and receptions but averaging almost an extra yard per game while finding the endzone more frequently. In the first seven weeks of the season, Thielen had just two touchdowns but has hit paydirt three times in his last four games. He’s also finished as a top-15 wide receiver twice in the past four weeks after finishing no higher than the WR17 in Weeks 1-11.
K.J. Osborn, WR
K.J. Osborn took over the third wide receiver role in 2021, often operating as the No. 2 option in Minnesota when Adam Thielen was unavailable. He managed to haul in 50 receptions for 655 yards and seven touchdowns last season, despite playing in an offense that ran three wide receiver sets at the fifth-lowest rate in the league. He’s been on the field a lot more this season, with a 74%-plus snap rate in 10 out of 14 games but has eclipsed 40 receiving yards just twice. Although the addition of Hockenson has elevated Osborn’s production across the board, most of the data is skewed from his monstrous performance in Week 15. Last week, Osborn had a career day catching 10 passes on 16 targets for 157 yards and a touchdown. It is worth noting that Osborn is beginning to see more volume recently, logging double-digit targets twice in the past six weeks after having no more than eight targets in his first eight games. There is a chance that Osborn’s usage continues to increase after posting back-to-back weeks with double-digit PPR points.