Expect Great Things From T.J. Hockenson in Fantasy Football This Season

The 2021 NFL season might not be one that the Detroit Lions -- or its fans -- have an awful lot to look forward to. Despite a new head coach and a change of quarterback, the team still seems to lack genuine buzz.

But there is at least one reason why fantasy managers should be interested in the Lions this coming season, and that is tight end T.J. Hockenson.

2020 Breakout

It seemed to go under the radar somewhat, but Hockenson enjoyed a productive 2020 season, his second in the NFL.

Hockenson saw 101 targets, catching 67 for 723 yards. All of these marks were top five at the tight end position. Hockenson also chipped in with six touchdowns while averaging a solid (for the position) 10.8 PPR points per game. Only six players averaged more.

Hockenson was an elite performer after catching the ball, too, as 328 of his receiving yards came in yards after the catch (YAC), the fourth-most among tight ends. He was also a focal point of the Lions' red-zone offense, seeing 17 targets inside the 20-yard line.

You can certainly argue that Hockenson has already broken out at the NFL level. But 2021 could see his production increase, making him a candidate to enter the elite tier at tight end.

Same Team, New Opportunities

The main drivers of fantasy success are volume and opportunity. Hockenson is in line to see plenty of both.

Since last season, the Lions have said goodbye to players who saw 360 of the team's targets last season. Players like Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola are no longer with the Lions. These account for a whopping 64.1% of the team's total targets in 2020. This is the highest percentage of vacated targets in the NFL.

Hockenson is a prime candidate to soak up plenty of these targets, given the overall lack of quality competition among the Lions' pass catchers. I am not saying anything against the likes of Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, or Geronimo Allison. They have all been solid pros throughout their NFL careers. But to call them dynamic playmakers at this stage of their journey would be somewhat hyperbolic.

Second-year running back D'Andre Swift is another viable option as a receiver after tallying 46 receptions as a rookie. But there are many targets lying around for him to pick up, all the while leaving plenty for Hockenson.

Perfect Quarterback, Far From Perfect Schedule

The Lions' new quarterback would also seem to be a super fit with Hockenson. Jared Goff has replaced Matthew Stafford in Detroit, and his 2020 production suggests a partnership with Hockenson would work out perfectly for both.

Goff amassed 3,942 passing yards last season for the Los Angeles Rams, with 2,101 of them coming in receiving YAC. That is 53% of his total yardage, the highest percentage among the 18 quarterbacks with at least 3,000 yards in 2020. With less than top-level talent at the outside receiver spots, it would make sense for Goff to get the ball into Hockenson's hands early and often, leaving the tight end to rack up YAC.

The Lions' strength of schedule should offer plenty of opportunities for Goff to get the ball to Hockenson. They face the seventh-hardest schedule in terms of opposition win totals, according to Sharp Football Stats, and they are only projected to win five games, per FanDuel Sportsbook.

Even with coaches that seem set to establish the run with head coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, they may find themselves behind and needing to pass the ball.

This is great news for the focal point of the passing offense, namely Hockenson.

T.J. Hockenson's 2021 Fantasy Football Projection

There's no real hope of sneaking Hockenson onto your fantasy rosters in 2021. His ADP in NFC drafts is currently the TE6. We are slightly more tepid in our projections, but not by much. Hockenson is the TE7 according to numberFire projections.

So while you will have to pay up to get him, Hockenson offers his fantasy managers the rarest of things in 2021. Namely, a tight end through whom his entire passing attack goes through.

For that reason alone, this is a Lion we should all want to hear a roar from.