Rookie Scouting Report: Tight End T.J. Hockenson

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Apr 22, 2019

Despite one year of college production, T.J. Hockenson is likely to go inside the top 20 picks of the NFL Draft

T.J. Hockenson, Iowa

Height: 6’5″
Weight: 251 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.70 seconds
Vertical: 37.5 inches
Broad Jump: 123 inches

Everyone knew his teammate Noah Fant was going to come out of school and into the NFL Draft, but most didn’t know Hockenson would as well. It was somewhat puzzling at first considering how talented of a class this is, but now hearing his name as a potential top-15 pick, there’s no more puzzling thoughts. He’s known as more of a traditional tight end who can play in-line as well as offer a threat in the receiving game.

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Hockenson played just two years at Iowa, amassing 73 receptions for 1,080 yards and nine touchdowns over a span of 23 games. He had just two 100-yard games on his resume, and in both of those games, he totaled less than five receptions, so the yardage came on some long plays. In fact, there were just four games in his college career where he totaled more than four receptions while there were eight games where he had two or less receptions. Did Fant hold back his potential? And if that’s the case, why is Hockenson being viewed as the superior prospect by many? It’s worth noting that Hockenson’s role increased significantly in 2018.

Size/Versatility: 4.0 out of 5 stars
The reason he’s viewed as a potential first-round pick is due to his versatility, as he’s able to be lined up as a receiver, an in-line tight end, and as an H-back. His versatility allows you to create mismatches because the opponent can’t assign a solid cover-defender to him, as he’ll be kept in to block most of the time. Because of that, he’ll be matched with players who have much less athleticism than he does. His size is average for a tight end, so nothing special, but also no concern.

Route Running/Ability to Separate: 3.5 out of 5 stars
He’s pretty deceptive in his routes, does a good job of making the defender believe he’s staying in to block, only to turn on the jets. While running routes, he looks a bit stiff in his movements, but he cuts very well for a big guy (6-foot-5, 251 pounds). He was often matched-up with linebackers due to where he lined up on the field, combined with Noah Fant being the primary receiver. He’s pretty sharp versus zone coverage, too, as he won’t push a route into a forced location, but rather adjust to find the soft spot.

Speed: 3.0 out of 5 stars
Considering how/where he lines up on the field, he has more than enough speed to beat most linebackers in coverage. He’s not a burner that’ll be able to outrun safeties or cornerbacks, but he won’t be matched with them very often. He varies his speed in his routes very well, too. There were plenty of occasions where he would deceive the defender with little burst out of the hole, only to hit his cut and burst up the field. His play-speed isn’t anything to be concerned with at the next level, even if his 40-time at the Combine wasn’t out of this world.

Hands/High-Pointing: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Watched him track a few deep balls down the field pretty well, though the passes did have plenty of air under them. He’s not someone who’ll high-point the ball very often and doesn’t play the box-out game, but rather allows the ball to come into his basket most of the time. His hands aren’t an issue, but there’s also nothing extraordinary about them, either. Just don’t expect him to play like Jimmy Graham when he comes into the NFL, because that’s not the type of player he is.

After the Catch: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Not going to be tackled by the shoelace, plays with good balance after contact, and even saw him hurdle a few defenders. He will always fight for extra yards but needs to ensure he doesn’t lose the football in the process, as he did versus Penn State last year.

Blocking: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I’m not positive he’s the all-world blocker some have cracked him up to be. He’s good, don’t get that wrong, but he’s not going to come in and hold up dominant edge rushers who understand his weaknesses. Watched him versus Montez Sweat and he was easily beat to the edge. When someone comes head-on with him, he has the strength to hold his ground, but it’s when he’s not squared-up is when you see his vulnerability. He can handle safeties coming on a blitz, but continually asking him to protect the edge wouldn’t be wise. He’s a lot better than most rookies coming into the league when it comes to this part of his game, and that’s going to help him get on the field much faster, but he’s not quite an elite blocker just yet.

Potential Landing Spot
With how often the Patriots use two tight end sets and how much they like to move them around the formation in the past, they’re the perfect landing spot for him, though many think it’s unlikely he falls to the end of the first round. Because of that, the few teams who could be in play for him include the Jaguars, Bills, Packers, Steelers, Texans, and Raiders. I doubt he goes inside the top-15, so the team most likely to land them in my book would be the Steelers, as he’d make a great pairing with Vance McDonald, who’s missed plenty of time throughout his career.

NFL Comparison
There’s a few different comps you could make for Hockenson, though I think he’s most like former Iowa tight end George Kittle. While I do believe Kittle is a bit more of a go-getter when it comes to attacking the ball through the air, both are solid blockers, good route runners, and are tough to bring down after the catch. Kittle plays bigger than his listed 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, while Hockenson is slightly bigger at 6-foot-5 and 251 pounds. Don’t think this means that I believe Hockenson is going to become Kittle (I don’t) but it’s the type of tight end he is, which is one who should have success in the NFL.

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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