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Bucky Hodges: TE/WR/Playmaker

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Virginia Tech v Pittsburgh
Hodges just might be a threat in the red zone.
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Bucky Hodges, as a 6th round tight-end pick, may not have generated as much attention as Dalvin Cook - but Hodges is a play-maker too.

He’s Really a Huge Wide-Receiver

The first thing to know about Hodges is that he isn’t a typical tight-end. He’s more like a 6’6”, 257lbs. wide-receiver who runs a 4.57” 40, has a 39” vertical jump, and is listed as a tight-end.

Looking at Hodges’ game film at Virginia Tech, he’s really used as a WR, lining up outside or in the slot, and was rarely asked to block much as a traditional, in-line TE.

Here is some game film that encapsulates what Hodges brings to the table for the Vikings:

Looking at this game against Pitt, what strikes me is how much the Pitt CBs struggled to cover him with his big size advantage. Hodges drew a lot of contact and penalties that don’t show up on his already impressive stat sheet. He drew two pass interference calls, each were 20 yard penalties, one would have been a TD as well. He got away with a push-off if you ask me, but also there was another obvious defensive PI penalty that wasn’t called on a TD pass, and still another TD pass that may have resulted in a defensive penalty in the NFL.

But that’s the advantage Hodges brings as basically a huge, athletic WR who can still run a 4.57” 40 and vertical jump 39”. He’s gonna win those jump balls and contested catches most of the time, in part because most DBs covering him in the NFL will be giving up 6” and 50 lbs. Most linebackers won’t have the speed/agility or height to cover him well.

I didn’t see him lose any contested catches/jump balls in the game film I watched. He had some dropped passes- usually more difficult catches- but I didn’t see him give up an interception or lose a jump ball situation- except once on a throw against Clemson where he turned late to look for the ball, so was late to contest it- and Cordrea Tankersley made a great play. He doesn’t appear to be a willing blocker, as Treadwell was in college, but he did show at least an adequate job of doing so most of the time. He’ll need to improve that in the NFL.

Again against Tennessee, Hodges drew two pass interference penalties. In this game, he looked to have more rushing attempts than receptions, which is another tool Hodges brings to the table. He’s also a former QB, so there’s that trick play thing too.

College Career at Virginia Tech

In terms of college stats, it’s hard to really compare Hodges to other tight-ends because he was really used more as a wide-receiver. The best comparison is probably Evan Engram, who was taken in the first-round by the Giants. Engram (6’3”, 234lbs., 4.42” 40) was basically used as a WR as well, not much of a blocker either, but very productive as a receiver, but with some drops too. Engram’s avg. receiving yards per game compare favorably (56.5 vs. 45 for Hodges) as does his avg. yards per catch (14.3 vs. 13.1), but Hodges compares favorably in TDs (20 vs. 15) in 2 fewer games, and 1st down conversion %.

And Hodges’ production stats compare favorably to most top tight-ends in the 2017 draft class. Across a wide range of skills PFF rates among the top tight-ends in the draft class, Hodges does best in production stats (receptions, targets, yards, and yards-per-route) and 1st down conversion %, where he compared much more favorably than most tight-ends selected earlier in the draft. But overall compared to the similar TE/WR Engram, taken in the 1st round, Hodges is pretty comparable- despite being taken 5 rounds later than Engram.

While Hodges’ drop rating was worse than others, as was his blocking grade, his worst overall rating was his ability to generate missed tackles. Indeed, watching his game film, he isn’t one to generate many yards-after-the-catch (YAC). Most of the time he catches the ball and is tackled on the spot. Some of that may be in how he was used, especially outside, and some may be related to QB accuracy. I don’t remember many throws to Hodges hitting him in stride right in the numbers. But that is something I don’t see changing much for him in the NFL, unless he’s covered a lot more often by linebackers on seam routes or slants over the middle.

What He Brings to Minnesota

It will be interesting to see how the Vikings and Pat Shurmur choose to use Hodges’ extraordinary physical traits and skill-set. Clearly it would be a mistake to make him into a more traditional pass-catching tight-end like Kyle Rudolph.

As a WR/TE hybrid, Hodges is a match-up nightmare lined up either in the slot or outside, and that’s where he should play mostly. If he lines up in the slot as a 3rd receiver, as a defensive coordinator, who do you have cover him? A nickel CB? A LB? A SS? What if he lines up outside as a 3rd receiver? Hard to see a CB being able to do much to stop a back-shoulder route outside, giving up so much size.

In the red-zone too, Hodges is a mismatch on back corner routes in the endzone. Having a mis-match like that in the red-zone can really help improve the Vikings’ red-zone TD percentage, which at 46% last year was 29th in the league.

In any case, Hodges is a play-maker and a coverage mismatch wherever he lines up. Hopefully the Vikings will be able to develop and maximize his abilities in their new offensive scheme.

I’ll end with a few GIFs highlighting Hodges abilities as a receiver.

UPDATE 5/5/17: HC Mike Zimmer in a press conference today referred to Hodges as an “H-Back” - an important clarification of his role in the offense.

Is that what they mean by large catch radius?

Hodges can go up for balls...
...make difficult catches outside..
...lay it all out there...
...and he’s a redzone threat...even against good coverage...
...and with the game on the line.

He does have some drops though..usually on tougher catches like this one.

Poll

How many receptions will Hodges have this year for the Vikings?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Less than 10
    (172 votes)
  • 26%
    11-20
    (509 votes)
  • 39%
    21-30
    (760 votes)
  • 24%
    31+
    (462 votes)
1903 votes total Vote Now