2019 NFL Draft: Iowa's T.J. Hockenson is destroyer of worlds as a blocker, dynamic pass-catcher
Hockenson surprised many by entering the 2019 NFL Draft, but has a good chance to be the first tight end picked
T.J. Hockenson was the surprise entry into the 2019 NFL Draft on deadline day, and the reigning John Mackey Award winner -- given to college football's best tight end -- infuses elite talent into what was already a dazzling tight end class.
Below you'll find a collection of plays that best illustrate his abilities as a dynamic receiver and old-school blocker. Hockenson's only 21 years old, is listed at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, and his frame suggests there's room to grow.
Let's start with some plays that exemplify his ability as a pass-catcher because, despite his blocking prowess, this is the most integral part of playing the tight end position today.
Here's a quality first impression of Hockenson's natural athleticism. He initiates a block with the edge-rusher, throws him toward the quarterback to create separation, and then, well ... watch.
Effortless hurdle there, and the ability to pick up a few extra yards after he landed.
Late in the game against Penn State, Hockenson displayed more of his lower-body explosiveness with a diving grab near the sideline after accelerating from an inline position.
That's a catch in the NFL, too. Remarkable snag outside his frame.
Speaking of that, a few weeks earlier, Hockenson scored a touchdown on a high-point grab against Indiana, once again, from an inline position. Notice his speed off the line of scrimmage.
He made the reception above his head look very natural too.
Going to the end zone angle for a catch Hockenson made on a deep crosser against Wisconsin in 2018. This play illustrates the savvy with which he plays. You'll notice a subtle push of the defensive back who had outside leverage, and look for Hockenson's burst to generate separation for his quarterback.
Check the top left portion of the screen for No. 38.
One last demonstration of Hockenson's acceleration, sustained long speed, concentration, and naturally smooth athleticism. On this play against Wisconsin, from his patented inline spot, the Mackey Award winner got upfield in a hurry, swam past a second-level defender, kept the afterburners on and tracked the football for a big gain.
Can't ask for more from a tight end. Perfect rep for Hockenson there.
Now, for his blocking specialty. And for a relatively inexperienced, redshirt sophomore, Hockenson's an excellent blocker. Kirk Ferentz certainly teaches them well in Iowa City.
This front-seven defender for the Badgers had no chance on a run play after Hockenson locked on.
His leg churn is remarkable -- and consistent -- as is his grip strength.
Hockenson was a vital aspect of this power run to the outside against Indiana. With the center and left tackle pulling to lead the way for the Iowa running back, Hockenson was tasked with walling off the Hoosiers defensive end.
He not only walled him off but drove him backward toward the line of scrimmage as the ball-carrier passed.
This reach block against a Wisconsin defensive tackle is extremely rare to see from a tight end. While the interior lineman didn't explode toward the flow of the play, which would've made this block much more difficult for Hockenson, the Iowa tight end was able to match the defensive tackles' power, turn his body to keep the defender away from the direction of the run, and finish him by pushing him downfield thanks to major torque.
Hockenson even flashed in pass-protection too. Look at his mirroring skills against this Wisconsin defensive end. Sure, he ultimately allowed an inside lane to his quarterback, but it came well beyond two seconds after the snap and the play went for sizable gain over the middle.
I've saved the best for last.
Just watch and enjoy.
This is what can happen to smaller-ish defenders who think Hockenson plays with any complacency as a blocker. He doesn't. And once he latches on, he can essentially drive linebackers off the screen.
Surprisingly, Hockenson's not super accurate when getting to the second level, but inline, he'll go to war against edge-rushers and linebackers positioned close to the line.
He's instantly my No. 1 tight end in the 2019 class, and with a strong combine, Hockenson could ultimately be in the first-round conversation with his teammate Noah Fant. Yes, Iowa is Tight End University.
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