We all know Iowa has a rich history of putting tight ends into the NFL under Kirk Ferentz. Dallas Clark, Brandon Myers, Scott Chandler, and George Kittle come to mind, and even more have had a cup of tea in the league.
With the Detroit Lions taking him with the eighth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, T.J. Hockenson now joins that esteemed group of Iowa alumni. He is the first non-QB offensive player taken and first tight end taken in the top 10 since 2014.
Following a true freshman season where he was able to redshirt and learn from current NFL All-Pro George Kittle, Hockenson had a successful 2017 season for the Hawkeyes, garnering 24 receptions for 320 yards and three touchdowns. While he showed flashes of brilliance as a redshirt freshman (particularly against Ohio State, when he recorded a line of 5-71-2), he was incredibly steady at his worst and often overshadowed by teammate Noah Fant, who lit the Iowa record book ablaze with 11 touchdowns.
While Iowa fans knew they had a guy with a lot of potential, very few were prepared for just how big of a breakout season T.J. Hockenson would have in 2018. He more than doubled his 2017 totals across the board on his way to earning Big Ten Tight End of the Year and John Mackey Award honors (49 receptions, 760 yards, six touchdowns) and did so in dominating fashion. He showcased good athleticism, reliable hands, and a knack for finding the soft spot of opposing defenses, and wrestled the team’s primary tight end position from Fant due to his elite blocking abilities.
Now, as an acclaimed 6’5”, 250 pound tight end, he’s ready to take his talents to the next level. While Hockenson might not be the athletic freak that teammate Noah Fant is, he projects as a high-floor NFL tight end at the very worst. He doesn’t quite have the explosiveness of Fant or George Kittle before him, but his 4.7 40-yard dash time is the same time that Zach Ertz ran in 2013, so it shouldn’t be much of a concern for whatever team drafts him. Otherwise, his consistency is what will earn him playing time early on and keep him in the league for years to come - he’s a consistently good pass catcher, good route runner who will find soft spots in opposing defenses, and most importantly, a consistent and willing blocker.
Big ups? You bet.
Blocking ability? Oh yeah.
Good (enough) speed? Sure!
Best of luck to TJ Hockenson. We can’t wait to closely follow your career at the next level!