Lost in the dominance of Travis Kelce and Darren Waller's spectacular 2020 season was the emergence of T.J. Hockenson as one of the NFL's best tight ends. The Detroit Lions tight end finished third at his position in receiving yards (723), fourth in receptions (67), and tied for ninth in touchdown catches (six).
Not bad for a player in his second season in the league. Hockenson has a new offensive coordinator in Anthony Lynn, who made Hunter Henry and Charles Clay prolific tight ends in the league in previous stops, but plans to do even more for Hockenson after a Pro Bowl season.
"T.J. did some nice things last year and I think his ceiling is even higher," Lynn said, via Tim Twentyman of the Lions website. "I know he made the Pro Bowl and all that, but he can play even better and that was the encouraging part. I like what I saw on tape. He's a good football player."
The tight end played a huge role in Lynn's offense with the Los Angeles Chargers, as Henry finished with 160 catches for 1,844 yards and 13 touchdowns in Lynn's four seasons with the Chargers from 2017 to 2020 -- and Henry missed the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL. Clay had 57 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns in his one season with Lynn as his offensive coordinator with the Buffalo Bills (2016) -- not elite numbers but enough in an offense with not a lot of playmakers at wide receiver.
Hockenson is the most talented tight end Lynn has had since becoming a head coach/offensive coordinator. Hockenson is just one of 50 tight ends in NFL history to have 1,000-plus receiving yards in his first two seasons and was just one reception shy of becoming just the 21st tight end to have 100-plus receptions in his first two seasons.
Lynn is looking to elevate Hockenson's game even further in Year Three, placing him amongst the elite tight ends in the league.
"It creates a very unique matchup because you have linebackers and safeties covering that guy and if he's a stud, it's going to be a long day for you," Lynn said. "So if I force you to put a (defensive back) on that guy, then obviously you have a lighter box and you can run the football and you want to run the football into a lighter box.
"So, not only does it create matchups for you in the passing game but it also helps you in the run game."