NFL Draft Fantasy Reaction: T.J. Hockenson can make an impact; Noah Fant, not right now
We usually don't expect much from rookie tight ends, but T.J. Hockenson might be the exception to that rule, Dave Richard says
Lions take T.J. Hockenson No. 8 overall
Rare is the rookie tight end who can make a Fantasy impact right away. Rare is also the way to describe T.J. Hockenson, who was the first-round pick of the Detroit Lions in Thursday's NFL Draft at No. 8 overall.
At nearly 6-foot-5 and 251 pounds, Hockenson wasn't just the best all-around tight end in the draft; he was among the best all-around skill-position prospects, period. Hockenson caught nine touchdowns over 73 grabs in 2017 and 2018, never missing a game and averaging 14.8 yards per catch. Those numbers are meant to be impressive, but if they're not, consider that he shared the field with another athletic tight end (and possible first-rounder), Noah Fant.
Hockenson will be a Day-1 starter not only because of his very good route-running, sweet feet and reliable hands, but also because he's pretty much prepared to be a tough-nosed blocker at the NFL level. It should make him a candidate for every-down work in the Lions' offense. The thought of defending against big-bodied pass-catchers like Kenny Golladay and Hockenson will make for nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators.
49 catches, 535 yards, four touchdownsHeath Cummings' 2019 projection
There's an adage in Fantasy that rookie tight ends never do well enough to help. Only Rob Gronkowski, thanks his 10-touchdown rookie season, really made an immediate impact. But we're coming off a season where Austin Hooper tallied 660 yards and four touchdowns and was the No. 7 tight end in non-PPR! Guess what, people?! Tight ends aren't that great for Fantasy once you get past the first three, maybe first five. At least Hockenson will offer some potential to be better than whatever Hooper was last season.
So when you're searching through the bodies of touchdown-or-bust tight ends in the final rounds on Draft Day, you might opt for Hockenson and hope his upside reveals itself sooner than later. I think that will include Week 1 when he plays against the Cardinals.
At worst, you'll have blown a late-round pick on a modest-upside tight end, and you'll have to replace him with someone else on waivers. Who's to say you don't end up doing that with David Njoku or Jimmy Graham or Jordan Reed? Hockenson is worth the flier.
Broncos take Noah Fant No. 20 overall
The Broncos needed a quarterback, so they of course drafted a tight end.
Maybe they're counting on Joe Flacco to stick around for a while.
Noah Fant was the Broncos' pick at 20th overall in the NFL draft. Perhaps with visions of Travis Kelce seam-crushing the souls of the AFC West, the team wanted to cultivate their own mismatch monster.
42 catches, 462 yards, four touchdownsHeath Cummings' 2019 projection
They'll have the chance. Fant has the potential to be the next great Fantasy tight end, but it's going to take some time. He's got the size for it at 6-foot-4 and 249 pounds, and there's no questioning his speed (4.5 in the 40-yard dash). However, his route-running is a work-in-progress and he's not even close to being an effective blocker. Moreover, there were times in school where his awareness was awful as, he'd often be slow off the snap or unaware of what the play was.
So consider Fant a raw talent with glam upside and some downside that'll remind you of Jared Cook (before Cook broke out in his ninth season).
But Joe Flacco loves his tight ends!!
Does he? In his last six seasons, his target percentage to tight ends (as in all of them) has steadily been between 20 and 23 percent. The position has amassed a max of five scores in each year. No tight end even sniffed the top-10 in non-PPR in those six years (Benjamin Watson and Dennis Pitta had some high-reception seasons to get around a top-10 PPR finish). Could this fallacy be based on Dennis Pitta's 61-669-7 season in 2012?! Let's hope your opponents think so!
Flacco's track record with tight ends doesn't mean much here anyway because Fant could be a limited participant until he's up to speed with the NFL game. How many targets will he take away on a weekly basis? Not much unless he breaks out in training camp and the preseason. If anything, his size makes him a red-zone threat, meaning he could take touchdowns away from guys like Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton and ... gulp ... Phillip Lindsay.
Fant is no better than a late-round gamble in all Fantasy redraft leagues. He does play against the Raiders in Week 1, so maybe he's on the list of stream-starting tight ends. He'll move into the middle/late picks in long-term keeper and dynasty start-ups and is probably going to slide into the top-15 picks in rookie-only drafts.
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