So You’ve Drafted T.J. Hockenson: A New Owner’s Guide

By RossWB on April 25, 2019 at 9:01 pm
go hock go
© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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Congratulations! You've just made the wonderful decision to draft T.J. Hockenson! Like most new T.J. Hockenson owners, you're no doubt filled with questions about your new family member. We here at GIA will try our best to answer any questions you might have.

HELLO DETROIT LIONS!

WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT T.J. HOCKENSON?

Hockenson does everything well. Catch? Yep. Run smooth routes? Yessir. Run well after the catch? You got it. Block? Oh buddy, does he ever. Hockenson is the most well-rounded tight end prospect in the draft. Hockenson made tough catches in traffic and in difficult areas, and he also consistently made the easy catches; in fact, he had the lowest drop rate (2.0%) of any tight end in college that saw at least 50 targets (per PFF). He was also a reliable target on third down; 15 of his overall 49 receptions went for Iowa first downs. His route-running gets high marks, as does his toughness -- he's not going to shy away from contact or avoid the middle of the field. And his run-blocking is already very good (see highlights below), which is pretty remarkable for a guy who had done very little blocking until he got to Iowa. 

Hockenson redshirted his first season at Iowa because in high school he was essentially a wide receiver at tiny Chariton High School. Correction: he was an unstoppable wide receiver at Chariton -- he set Iowa high school records with 238 receptions and 49 touchdowns during his four years there. But he needed time to learn the intricacies of the tight end position when he got to Iowa, particularly the blocking side of things since you won't see the field at Iowa as a tight end if you can't block effectively. The good news? Hockenson was a very quick study. He became an instant impact player in his first season (2017) and became even better with a year's experience; in 2018 he was impossible to take off the field -- and almost as impossible for opposing defenses to stop. 

WHAT DID HE DO THAT'S SO GREAT?

Well, he won the John Mackey Award in 2018, awarded to the nation's best tight end. That seems like a pretty good thing! Hockenson doubled his production in his second year at Iowa, catching 49 passes for 760 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers ranked among the nation's best for tight ends. And, as noted, he was an absolutely dynamite blocker, laying more than a few pancakes on defenders and consistently sealing the edge for Iowa. 

STATS

YEAR REC YDS AVG TD
2017 24 320 13.3 3
2018 49 760 15.5 6

The Hockenson only has two seasons of production at Iowa because of that redshirt season in 2016. Hockenson's stats are solid (and very good in 2018), but it's difficult for skill players in Iowa's offense to produce standout statistics; Iowa employs a run-heavy style and plays at a slow tempo. Skill players simply aren't going to produce the boffo numbers that they would in a different offense. 

HOW ARE HIS PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES? 

Hockenson isn't the athletic marvel that his teammate Noah Fant is, but his athletic abilities are still very good. He was officially measured at 6'5" and 251 lbs at the combine, with 32 1/4" arms and 9 1/2" hands. Hockenson also did well in the combine activities: 

40 YD DASH BENCH PRESS VERT JUMP BROAD JUMP 3 CONE 20 YD SHUTTLE 60 YD SHUTTLE
4.7 seconds 17 reps 37.5 in 123.0 in 7.02 sec 4.18 sec 11.55 sec

Hockenson was behind only Fant in the vertical jump, broad jump, and 3-cone drill categories. So, yeah, we'd say his physical attributes are pretty solid. 

Per NFL Network's Next Gen Stats, Hockenson graded out very well, though just short of Elite status: 

hockenson next gen stats

HIGHLIGHTS 

WHAT ABOUT THE BAD?

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Just kidding... but, seriously, there's very little to dislike about Hockenson as a prospect. He doesn't have elite speed or have quite the elite physical tools of guys like Fant or former Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, but he's not too far off of them and his speed or physical tools are by no means bad or lacking. He has a fairly small track record, given that he only played two years at Iowa, but nothing about him suggests "one-year wonder." He displayed an impressive and well-rounded set of skills in just three years on campus at Iowa and seems poised to be an immediate contributor in the NFL. 

WAS THIS A GOOD PICK? 

Yes. In terms of fit, Hockenson is an excellent prospect who should address a major need for the Lions. They haven't had a solid tight end since, uh...  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Hockenson can be both a reliable safety blanket for Matthew Stafford, a drive-sustaining chain-mover on third downs, and a big play weapon out of the slot. He should also boost Detroit's running game with his ability as a blocker. Tight ends don't get taken as highly as this very often -- but it's rare to find a tight end that checks as many boxes out of college as Hockensn. Enjoy him, Lions fans -- Hock's a keeper. 

 

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