T.J. Hockenson: NFL Draft Prospect Profile
T.J. Hockenson has a chance to become a unique NFL weapon. A truly elite tight end is one of the most valuable players in the NFL. Alongside top-tier quarterbacks and elite edge rushers, a tight end that is above average at running routes, catching passes and blocking is a building block for a pro football team. Rob Gronkowski has been the most valuable Patriot for much of his pro career and Travis Kelce helped shape the amazing Kansas City Chiefs offense in 2017 and 2018.
T.J. Hockenson offers that promise. He actually shared the field with another highly rated NFL TE prospect, Noah Fant. but for me, rates out higher as an NFL prospect. In 2018, Hockenson finished fourth in all of college football among tight ends in receiving yards on 49 total receptions. Hockenson also added seven touchdowns in his final college season, with one coming via a rushing attempt. Hockenson had a 25% market share of the available receiving yards for the Iowa Hawkeyes, which is a fairly elite number for a tight end.
Hockenson is the ideal size for an NFL tight end in 2019. He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 250 pounds; if he is able to run a 40 in less than 4.7, a fairly decent physical comp for him would be Travis Kelce. Kelce is also 6’5” and weighed 260 pounds while running a 4.66 40 time. Kelce had only 875 receiving yards in college and 10 total touchdowns, so just comparing the two players as prospects is not outrageous. Another advantage for Hockenson is that he will be one of the youngest players in the draft at his position. That is a positive sign for development. Almost all work done in the NFL Draft sphere suggests that the younger a player has his breakout in college, the more likely it is that they succeed at the next level.
What really draws scouts to Hockenson is that not only did he show the ability to be an outstanding receiver, but he relishes the opportunity to block. Rotoworld writer Thor Nystrom called him “a third offensive tackle – he manhandles defensive ends.” This following clip from Hawkeye Football Fan HQ is an example of how Hockenson is able to line up as a blocker and create a lane in a way that feels almost like cheating for a pass-catching player.
Hockenson is far from a finished product, despite the glowing scouting report presented here. He is ready as a blocker almost immediately but the archaic Iowa offense that he played in will mean that his transition to the NFL will be a bit slow. George Kittle, the record-breaking San Francisco 49ers tight end, also played his college football at Iowa. While in college, Kittle had only 48 total receptions (less than Hockenson did in his final season) and 737 yards. Kittle put on an absolute show at the NFL combine, which had Fantasy Football players drooling at his potential.
Kittle was not selected until the fifth round. While it is likely that Hockenson will go in the latter half of the first round. I am a little concerned that expectations will be too high for Hockenson out of the gate. But his combination of physicality, soft hands and blocking ability should mean that he gets on the field right away for whatever NFL team drafts him.
I am going to leave you with Hockenson’s game tape via Waldo Roren from his 2018 outing against Wisconsin. He flashes all of the things that have scouts salivating about his game against the Badgers. The blocking, the Yards After Catch dynamic movement and the soft hands. I am ultimately very high on Hockenson and will have him as my number one ranked tight end of this very strong class and expect him to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.