T.J. Hockenson Can Make an Immediate Impact in Detroit
It may have been a wide receiver leading the Iowa Hawkeyes' offense in receptions in 2018, but both second and third billing belonged to a pair of tight ends.
That duo -- T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant -- also finished first and second on the team in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Both Hockenson and Fant were considered top prospects at the position this year, but in 2018, it was Hockenson who came out with the better stat line for the Hawkeyes, grabbing 49 passes for 760 yards and 6 touchdowns, compared to 39 receptions for 519 yards and 7 touchdowns for Fant. Hockenson also made up the touchdown difference by adding one on the ground.
Hockenson isn't huge for a traditional tight end. At 6'5" and 251 pounds, MockDraftable.com has him stacking up in the 55th percentile in height and only the 38th in weight among prospects at the position. What he does offer is elite athleticism for a tight end. His 4.70-second 40-yard dash was nothing special, but he proved incredibly explosive, with 90th-percentile broad and vertical jumps, and he turned in a 77th-percentile three-cone drill and 85th- and 84th-percentile marks in the 20- and 60-yard shuttles, respectively.
As we're seeing more and more recently, Hockenson is something of a hybrid between a traditional tight end and a wide receiver. Unlike his teammate Fant, though, Hockenson will likely see more use along the line of scrimmage, rather than getting a large amount of slot work like we've seen with recent athletic tight end prospects such as Evan Engram and O.J. Howard, who both turned in 40-yard dash times of 4.51 or better.
That's where the other side of Hockenson's game comes in. Yes, he was his team's most productive receiver, and he's hugely athletic. But he's also a nasty run blocker.
It's tough to quantify his blocking prowess statistically, but in addition to that highlight reel, you can find an in-depth breakdown in this article on CBSSports, and his scouting report on NFL.com isn't short on blocking references under his list of perceived strengths.
Potential Impact as a Rookie
It can be tough tor a rookie tight end to make an impact. Only two players at the position have recorded at least 100 targets in their rookie season since 2000, per Pro-Football-Reference, and only six saw more than even 75 targets.
Things tend to be different for tight ends taken in the first round though. Each of the top three -- and four of the top five -- single-season target totals for a rookie tight end in that sample come from first-round picks. Also, 10 of the 22 tight ends taken in the first round since 2000 saw at least 50 targets, with 7 of the 22 seeing at least 60.
That makes his landing spot with the Detroit Lions make a ton of sense. If you find yourself scratching your head trying to think of who their top tight end was last year, you can be forgiven.
Hockenson should not have any trouble getting on the field in Detroit, even with that notorious "rookie tight end" designation.
It's not just snaps he's in for, either. Between Toilolo, Willson, Golden Tate and Bruce Ellington, a shade over 25% of the team's targets from 2019 are unaccounted for. There's plenty of volume up for grabs, and a player of Hockenson's caliber should earn a nice chunk of that right away.
Our editor-in-chief, JJ Zachariason, initially projects Hockenson for 66.8 targets, 48.1 receptions, 527.8 yards, and 4.2 touchdowns.