Over the upcoming months, we at SideLion Report will be previewing players that could be Detroit Lions in late April. This week, we look at T.J. Hockenson.
One of the most controversial first round draft picks that the Detroit Lions have had in recent years was Eric Ebron, who Detroit took with the 10th overall pick in 2014 as Lions’ fans all across the country showered the general management with boos.
And who could blame them? In a year where the Lions had many needs to address, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines, they chose to pick an inconsistent tight end who posted a mediocre 61 percent catch rate in his final year in the Motor City.
But despite the man being hated by most Lions fans for his inability to block and pitiful hands, Ebron thrived in his new situation in Indianapolis, posting 750 yards and 13 touchdowns, proving to be quarterback Andrew Luck‘s favorite red zone target and laughing at all the fans who rejected in the Pro Bowl this year.
To put those gaudy numbers into perspective, Lions tight ends Levine Toilolo, Luke Willson and Michael Roberts combined for 450 yards and four touchdowns in 2018, proving Ebron to be more valuable than all of the Detroit tight ends. So as much as fans complained about him in his four years in Detroit, those fans are probably missing him hardcore.
And while drafting another tight end with a top-10 pick in the draft this year could brew more anger in the fanbase, quarterback Matthew Stafford could use another quality blocker that doubles as a target to throw to as a safety net when wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay aren’t open.
It is for these reasons why the Detroit Lions should consider drafting Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson with their No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft.
Hockenson’s numbers speak for themselves, as in his two years active with the Hawkeyes, he posted 73 receptions for 1,080 and nine touchdowns, with 760 of those yards and six of those touchdowns coming in 2018.
Those numbers allowed Hockenson to help fill up his trophy case, as he earned both the Mackey award and the Ozzie Newsome award, which are given annually to the man that is considered the best tight end in college football.
Hockenson is popularly slotted to the Detroit Lions, as both Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network and Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN both had the Lions selecting him in their most recent mock drafts. They are both a fan of his old-school tough-nosed game, as Kiper described in a recent teleconference:
"“I think he’s going to be one of those guys that’s going to skyrocket. You just can’t look at him as a one-dimensional player. He’s a multi-dimensional tight end, he can do everything you want and he’d be a great asset I think for Matthew Stafford to have in that offense. He’s a quarterback’s best friend, that’s what he was at Iowa this year and he’s kind of a throwback, but he has the skills to fit in very well with today’s NFL.”"
Now, is tight end the primary need for the Lions to address this offseason? Absolutely not. A speedy edge rusher and a safety to replace the recently cut Glover Quin are probably more needed when looking at the early Detroit draft projections.
Despite this, there is often a case to made that talent can often trump need when it comes to the NFL draft. General manager Bob Quinn has shown an affinity to draft tough, Big Ten players, as his first ever draft pick for the Lions was former Ohio State Buckeye and current starting left tackle Taylor Decker.
When the Detroit Lions got rid of Golden Tate this offseason, they got rid of Matthew Stafford’s favorite target when it came to passing over the middle. Obviously he’s not as fast as Tate, but Hockenson can be a reliable safety blanket for Stafford, similar to Dallas Clark in his years in Indianapolis with future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.