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This is the fifth in a series of position previews for the 2024 NFL draft, which begins Thursday. Today: Tight ends.

Offensive line | Edge rushers | Receivers | Running backs

Vikings' outlook

Star tight end T.J. Hockenson did not undergo surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee until Jan. 29, waiting for a torn MCL, which did not require an operation, to reach a stage of healing. While he would not rule out a Week 1 return, the Vikings could be without him to begin the 2024 season. The team has not put a timeline on his recovery. The Vikings are already equipped to handle his absence with Josh Oliver and Johnny Mundt, who re-signed on a one-year, $2 million deal this offseason. Tight end Nick Muse, a 2022 seventh-round pick, caught his first pass in last year's regular-season finale. All four remain under contract for next year.

Once Hockenson is healthy, he'll be a welcome safety valve for whichever quarterback is at the helm between journeyman Sam Darnold or a rookie. Despite the team's shortcomings in the run game, Oliver remains a difference-making blocker.

Vikings' level of need

Low. Hockenson is technically entering the first year of a four-year, $66 million extension he signed before the start of last season (the deal was added to the end of his rookie contract). He's signed through 2027. Oliver, who inked a three-year deal in 2023 free agency, has two more years left under contract. The top of the Vikings' pecking order is set for the foreseeable future. The team could always look to add more depth through late rounds and undrafted free agency, but there's little room right now for contributors. But this NFL draft class is expected to offer talented options to teams looking for tight end help.

Three names to know

Brock Bowers, Georgia: This is considered a deep class of NFL tight end prospects, including some the Vikings didn't have room for like Michigan's AJ Barner, Iowa's Erick All and Penn State's Theo Johnson. Undisputed atop draft lists is Bowers, who could be a top-10 pick after back-to-back seasons as college football's top tight end as a two-time John Mackey Award winner. Bowers (6-foot-3, 243 pounds) was the Bulldogs' leading receiver each of the last three seasons, and that's where he's expected to make a big difference in the NFL.

Ben Sinnott, Kansas State: The tight end rankings are disputed after Bowers. Don't sleep on Sinnott (6-foot-4, 250 pounds). The former walk-on is an incredible athlete. He gets compared to Hockenson, although Hockenson is slightly taller, and Sinnott performed slightly better in athletic testing at this year's scouting combine. Sinnott had the top vertical and broad jumps, and the best three-cone drill, among this year's class. He made big strides every college season, culminating in a career-high 676 yards and six touchdowns last fall. He has the size to be an in-line blocker and the short-area quickness to find openings in zone coverages in the NFL.

Cade Stover, Ohio State: Stover (6-foot-4, 247 pounds) is relatively new to the position as the former defensive lineman started playing tight end in 2020. His ascension from there has put him on NFL radars and made him one of the top projected tight ends in this class. Analysts cite his experience as a high school basketball player when describing his footwork and ability to win contested catches. He reset his career high each of the last two seasons, including 41 catches for 576 yards last fall.

One sleeper

Ja'Tavion Sanders, Texas: Sanders (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) is another enticing receiving option for NFL teams after producing at least 600 receiving yards each of the last two seasons. He has stood out in a crowded offense with fellow projected NFL draft picks in Texas receivers Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell. Sanders was named a first-team All-Big 12 selection each of those two years while appearing in all 27 games. He caught 31 of 50 targets last season without dropping a pass, according to Pro Football Focus.