2019 NFL Draft Prospects: Tight End - T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
This Iowa native decided to stay home with the Hawkeyes after being a three-time all-time selection. Hockenson already made a significant impact as a redshirt freshman in 2017, catching 24 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns, but he really broke onto the scene last season. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and won the 2018 John Mackey award for the best tight end in the country despite a likely top-20 pick in Noah Fant being on the same offense, as Hockenson caught 49 passes for 760 yards and six touchdown. He is now looking forward to being the next great Iowa tight end after Dallas Clark and George Kittle.
The 6’5”, 250 pound Hockenson was part of maybe the most pro-style offense in college football with an enormous amount of 21, 12 and even 22 personnel. He was used in-line more than anybody with comparable receiving numbers. Hockenson was featured as a possession receiver going across the field with somebody clearing out space on post routes, but he also showed excellent focus tracking the ball down the field and making catches in-between traffic.
Hockenson has enough speed to stress defenses vertically, but is also a very physical route-runner on the intermediate level. I think he displays tremendous focus until the catch is secured and he dropped just one of 64 targets last season.
Hockenson does a good job clearing himself by using his hands crossing the face of defenders and high-points the ball very well. He has the upper body flexibility and sticky hands to snag balls off the ground. Once the catch is secured, he turns upfield quickly and almost half of his yardage last season came after the catch, largely off waggles and shallow crossers. Hockenson turns his head once he clears the linebacker level and is ready for the ball, as it was thrown to the back-shoulder quite a bit over the middle.
You might want to call Hockenson deceptively athletic, as he is somewhat like George Kittle in that area. He surprises you with running away from people and hurdling somebody once in a while. Overall he runs with good balance and keeps his legs moving through contact. It is so refreshing to watch a tight end get after people in the run game nowadays with all those spread offenses and what basically are big slot receivers.
Hockenson is a technically sound run-blocker, who uses bend in his knees and hand-placement inside the chest of the defender, while also showing the ability to pivot his hips to seal or wall off defender. He finishes his blocks with an attitude and puts some defensive linemen on their backs. Hockenson even lined up at fullback at times and was used as a lead-blocker. He also put in work as a pass-protector and ran some tight-end screens off that. The balanced tight-end finished top ten in overall run-blocking and receiving grades in 2018 according to PFF.
However, he is not the type of dynamic vertical threat his partner in crime Noah Fant is. Hockenson’s speed is very good, but not great. He can also be a little overly aggressive as a run-blocker and whiff on defenders in space due to that. You see him slightly mistime some jumps and allow passes to drop into his bread basket. It is hard to find a weakness with this kid, although that can be a somewhat of a problem as well, because there aren’t a lot of things that just jump out to me athletically.
Hockenson is a do-everything tight end, who can work all areas of the field in the passing game and is a relentless run-blocker. When it comes to great all-around football players, he is easily a top ten prospect for me and the top skill-position player on offense in this draft. Similar to O.J. Howard in 2017, I think Hockenson is a can’t-miss tight end prospect, who even though he is not the same type of athlete, I would argue is a better all-around player from day one.
Grade: Top Ten