Rookie Rundown: TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa

Rookie Rundown: TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa

NFL Draft

Rookie Rundown: TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa

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Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson

(Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports)

Athletic Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson enters the 2019 NFL Draft after a redshirt sophomore year in which he put his downfield skills on full display. Winner of the Big Ten Player of the Year Award for his position, and the 2018 John Mackey Award (nation’s best TE), Hockenson shared the tight end spotlight with Noah Fant for the Buckeyes.

Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 251 pounds
40 time: 4.70 seconds

Iowa has produced a few notable tight ends during the Kirk Ferentz era, which, in fairness, has lasted an eternity in football years. Most recently, the San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle burst onto the scene in 2018. Both Kittle and Hockenson share similar abilities down the field, but Kittle is notably faster (4.52-second 40).

TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa — stats (2017-18)

Year
Rec
Yards
Avg.
TD
Long
Rush
yards
Avg.
TD
2017
24
320
13.3
3
24
0
0
0
0
2018
49
760
15.5
6
54
1
4
4
1

In limited action as a redshirt freshman, Hockenson managed to flash some of his vertical ability. His average grew to a whopping 15.5 yards per snare in 2018, and he doubled his TD output at an even ratio of catches-to-scores. Hockenson even added a rushing score on a gimmicky run play against Minnesota.

Pros

  • Crazy upside — has the potential to be a legitimate star in the NFL
  • Displays sheer athleticism in the open field — numerous successful leapfrogs over defenders to add yardage
  • Versatility will endear him to coaches of any system — can play inline and flex into the slot
  • Dangerous over the middle — quicker than fast and able to get a step on linebackers vs. intermediate routes
  • Quick out of his stance and produces almost immediate separation vs. tight man coverage
  • Adept blocker and has room for growth in this area
  • Understands how to shield defenders from making a play in contested situations by boxing out
  • Great hands with a wide catch radius
  • Crisp route-running skills and demonstrates the ability to handle the entire route tree

Cons

  • Could stand to add muscle to improve functional blocking at the next level, but it is unnecessary if utilized to his natural skills
  • Seems overly frenetic at times as a run blocker — could be shed easily in the NFL by savvy defenders
  • A few jump-ball timing issues on film — minor and definitely fixable
  • Only two years of experience can cut both ways
  • Could more consistently catch with his hands rather than let the ball into his body

Fantasy football outlook

Surefire, slam-dunk fantasy star potential … It may take some time, though, as tight ends don’t always translate immediately to the pro game. He should stand a better chance than most given his history in a pro-style system and all-around tools.

Hockenson is a lock to come off of the board in Round 1, and likely in the first 10 selections. The 21-year-old could go to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 7, since their new offensive features the tight end position and this team doesn’t have one of note. Detroit is a possible spot at No. 8, and Buffalo certainly is in play at No. 9. Green Bay could opt for Hockenson with the 12th selection; it will be surprising if he falls beyond Tennessee at No. 19 and stunning if Hockenson is available for Oakland at 24.

Fantasy gamers should view the impending rookie as a risk-reward selection in single-year leagues and a lineup fixture in long-term outlooks. He’s a decent TE2 gamble this year. Hockenson profiles somewhere around Zach Ertz as an NFL tight end — not a bad comp.

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