2019 NFL Draft Grades: Lions get a B- for taking T.J. Hockenson with the eighth overall pick
The Lions add a big target for the passing game by making Hockenson the first tight end off the board
With the No. 8 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Lions selected T.J. Hockenson, tight end out of Iowa. Young, dynamic pass-catching option with the athleticism and speed to threaten the seam and make catches well outside his frame. Immense leg churn as a blocker and very accurate finding linebackers in space. Probably needs to add more strength at the next level to control defensive ends at the point of attack, but is arguably the most exciting, new-age tight end to enter the league over the past few drafts.
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Pete Prisco: He's a good player, but let's stop with all the comparisons to Rob Gronkowski. He's a good blocker, but nowhere near as good as Gronkowski. He's more George Kittle. Can he rush the passer because the Lions can't rush the passer?
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Dave Richard: I love the move for the Lions, who need a versatile blocker and receiver in their offense in the worst way. I'm not a believer in him being the next Gronk, but he should be worth six touchdowns and 650 yards as a rookie -- numbers that would have been good enough to be a top-10 Fantasy tight end in 2018. I'd take the chance on him with a late-round pick in seasonal redrafts and would be more aggressive with a middle- to late-rounder in long-term formats. He's expected to be a top-eight pick in rookie-only drafts.
NFL comparison: George Kittle
Chris Trapasso: Easy, same-school comparison here. Like Kittle, Hockenson is a serious seam-stretcher who plays faster than his 4.7 time in the 40. He has dynamic feet, springy leaping ability, and strong hands, so he's the consummate big target over the middle. He's probably a little ahead of where Kittle was as a blocker when he entered the league, but for as many highlight reel blocks as Hockenson put on film in 2018, he could add bulk which would give him more power against defensive ends when he's in-line.
Ryan Wilson: Hockenson, who redshirted in 2016, played just two seasons for Iowa. He had 24 receptions for 320 yards and three touchdowns in 2017 but made enough of an impression in limited opportunities to make the preseason watch list for the John Mackey Award, which goes to the nation's top tight end. Hockenson more than doubled his production in 2018; he finished with 49 receptions for 760 yards and six scores.
Among all FBS tight ends, Hockenson ranked fourth in Pro Football Focus' yards-per-route-run metric and was in the top 10 in deep pass receptions, deep pass yards and receptions from the slot.
Ryan Wilson: Best overall tight end and one of the best overall players in this draft class. Hockenson shows great footwork when blocking and has shown the ability to finish blocks in the run game. He runs refined routes, due in equal parts to his athleticism, understanding of the game and solid footwork. He also excels at contested catches. Taken all together, he can be a game-changing middle-of-the-field talent.
Here's an example of Hockenson's blocking skills:
And here is Hockenson making a tough catch over the middle:
Ryan Wilson: Hockenson has very few weaknesses. He's not as fast as tight end and former Iowa teammate Noah Fant, but his 4.7 40 matches what Zach Ertz ran at the combine several years ago. There is very little Hockenson doesn't do well.
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