Bucky Hodges is the rookie about which Vikings fans should be most excited.
Temuchin “Bucky” Hodges has the most badass name on the team. Don’t @ me*. Genghis Khan is his namesake. It doesn’t get more badass than that.
*if you must @ me, please quote tweet so all your followers can also share in your displeasure.
Bucky Hodges is more athletic version of Rob Gronkowski as a prospect.
The numbers don’t lie. Bucky is just as big, less injured, and far more athletic than Gronk was coming out.
A dynamic weapon at the tight end position is quarterback’s best friend.
Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all-time. Drew Brees is the greatest fantasy football quarterback of all-time. Alex Smith is the greatest quarterback to have had fan clubs created for him by both Luke Braun and Sal Stefanile. Each of these very different and arbitrarily selected quarterbacks sees an appreciable improvement in performance when playing with a dynamic weapon at tight end.
Truthers and #DadRunnerz, please stop! Kyle Rudolph is not a dynamic weapon.
According to PlayerProfiler.com, Rudolph’s height-adjust speed score is in the 32nd percentile of their TE database, his burst score, which combines his broad and vertical jumps, ranks in the 45th percentile, and his agility score ranks in the 44th percentile. Kyle Rudolph is a good NFL tight end. Kyle Rudolph is not a dynamic weapon in the passing game.
A closer look at Rudolph’s production and efficiency in 2016 further illuminates this point. Rudolph led all NFL tight ends with 132 targets and fourth in receiving with 840 yards which looks good. When you look at Rudolph’s efficiency numbers, they tell a less flattering story. For tight ends who saw 35 or more targets in 2016, Rudolph ranked 26th in Yards per Reception (10.12) and 27th Yards per Target (6.36). Jimmy Graham was third in both categories at 14.20 YPR and 9.72 TPT respectively.
Bucky Hodges has the best combination of size, speed, explosiveness, and college dominance on the Vikings roster.
In this defense of Julio Jones as the NFL’s best wide receiver on Episode 19 of the Climbing The Pocket podcast, JR made the point that big, athletic receiving targets can “take over games consistently in every part of the field.” The Vikings wide receiver corp does not currently have a players who profiles as this sort of game breaker. Michael Floyd comes closest but his on field inconsistencies and off the field issues make him tough to rely on.
Warren Sharp, while teasing his 2017 Football Preview Book, notes that tight ends may be the key to unlocking improved efficiency in the passing game:
Also, even in 11, targeting the TE has a higher efficiency (53% success, 93 rating) than targeting one of the WRs (48% success, 87 rating).
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) June 12, 2017
Digging deeper using SharpFootballStats.com Target and Success Rates by Position data, I also found that targeting the tight end position had a higher average success rate than targeting either wide receivers or running backs. Overall, tight ends had a success rate of 53% compared to 50% of wide receivers and 46% for running backs. On average, tight end targets were more efficient but Minnesota bucked this trend as Kyle Rudolph ranked 28th in TE success rate (min. 35 targets).
What does any of this have to do with size, speed, explosiveness, or college dominance?
Reviewing the college production profiles and combine metrics for each of the tight ends drafted since 2007, I found height-adjusted speed score to be most strongly correlated to targets, receptions, yards, yards per receptions, and touchdowns. When digging into tight end yards per game, the three metrics most correlated to success were height-adjusted speed score, vertical leap, and college dominator rating.
Enter Bucky Hodges and his 95th percentile height-adjusted speed score, 97th percentile vertical jump, and 73rd percentile college dominator rating.
Bucky Hodges was a high-level college producer in a Power 5 conference and brings a unique combination of elite athleticism and size to the Vikings receiving group. The NFL is a passing league. If Bucky Hodges is able to refine his blocking and route running technique, he can become the game breaking player to supercharge this offense.
Stats provides by Pro Football Reference, Player Profiler, and Sharp Football Stats.
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