The Lions needed a versatile tight end in the worst way. They got one in T.J. Hockenson. A two-year starter at Iowa, Hockenson mowed down defenses to the tune of 14.8 yards per catch with nine scores in 26 games while splitting tight end targets with teammate Noah Fant. Among the best all-around skill-position players in the class, Hockenson is a mismatch with his big size and smooth, quick feet. He's got a nice set of hands and is a legitimate blocker. Expect him to start from day one for the Lions and eventually show up in some Pro Bowls. Rookie tight ends tend to disappoint in Fantasy, but if he nets 650 yards and six scores, he'll finish in the top 12. With plenty of targets headed his way, Hockenson can help your team as an early-week streamer (he plays the Cardinals in Week 1), making him an enticing pick in seasonal leagues beginning in Round 10. He'll go about then in long-term formats and will be a top-10 pick in rookie-only drafts.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Hockenson could be a "mold breaker" as a rookie, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports. Specifically, Bevell is referring to the well-publicized tendency for rookie tight ends to struggle in their first season -- presumably due to a steep learning curve that generally involves a combination of learning to block much heavier edge rushers and out-maneuver defensive backs 30-plus pounds lighter. After getting an initial look at Hockenson during the first few weeks of offseason practices, Bevell apparently believes the No. 8 overall pick is already skilled enough as both a blocker and receiver to buck that trend. Hockenson's performance at Iowa last year coupled with his pre-draft workout numbers certainly support that notion. The bigger issue for Hockenson is likely the presence of Jesse James, who signed a lucrative four-year, $22.6 million contract with the Lions earlier in the offseason and could also have a large role in Bevell's offense in 2019.
The Lions selected Hockenson in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, eighth overall. The Iowa product is the most complete tight end prospect since at least O.J. Howard. Hockenson also fills a major need for the Lions. He entered the year as the supposed backup tight end to Noah Fant before exploding for 49 catches, 760 yards, and six touchdowns on 66 targets. Unlike Eric Ebron, whom the Lions took in 2014 with the 10th overall selection, Hockenson enters the NFL as a polished blocker as well, which will keep him on the field as an every-down player. Hockenson can work in-line or flexed out into the slot.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|2||09/15||Los Angeles Chargers||10||5.67|
|4||09/29||Kansas City Chiefs||31||9.56|
|6||10/15||@Green Bay Packers||8||5.50|
|8||10/27||New York Giants||19||7.38|
|15||12/15||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||22||7.88|
|17||12/29||Green Bay Packers||8||5.50|