Detroit Lions: T.J. Hockenson pick was an easy decision
When their number was called in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions did the work in order to be comfortable taking a tight end.
Fans of the Detroit Lions certainly knew it was a possibility. And many hoped their beloved franchise would avoid the mistakes of the recent past. But it’s not hard to see why many fans were shocked and disappointed by the recent selection of yet another first-round tight end by the Lions.
In the 2009 draft, Detroit selected Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew with the second of two first-round selections (20th overall). Pettigrew figured to be a security blanket for fellow rookie, quarterback Matthew Stafford, for the foreseeable future in the Motor City. He ended up playing seven years, posting 83 receptions for 777 yards and five touchdowns in his best season in Motown, 2011.
In 2014, the Lions once again used a first-round selection to draft a tight end. This time, North Carolina’s Eric Ebron with the 10th overall pick. Unfortunately, inconsistency and dropped passes plagued Ebron during his four years in Detroit. He was released early last year and subsequently posted his first Pro Bowl season as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
Both Pettigrew and Ebron would seem to serve as warning signs for general manager Bob Quinn and second-year head coach Matt Patricia to avoid investing too highly in the position. Yet, when their number was called last Thursday night during the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Detroit opted to turn in the card with Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson’s name on it.
Here’s what Quinn told the Jamie and Stoney show on WXYT-FM (97.1) via the Detroit Free Press about how easy of a decision it was to take Hockenson in the first round.
"“ … as the weeks kind of got narrowed down towards the draft we narrowed in on T.J. and we were hoping he was going to be there at eight … He’s someone that we fully vetted and really put a lot of time and effort into making sure he was a good fit for us on the field as well as off the field, and really for us it was a very easy decision.”"
Quinn’s argument for selecting Hockenson is simple. Not being named general manager of the Lions until 2016, he was simply not here when Detroit made those previous picks of Pettigrew and Ebron. Quinn and his staff believed Hockenson was the best player available who could help the team improve.
Like Ebron before him, Hockenson comes to Detroit with a ton of hype. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah compared him to both former Pittsburgh Steelers’ legend Heath Miller and current Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
Although the selection of T.J. Hockenson was an easy selection for Bob Quinn and company, convincing fans he was the right choice will be much more difficult. But one of the rookie’s top attributes is apparently his toughness. And the 21-year old will need it to play through the criticism he’ll face from a fanbase that feels they’ve been burned by first-round tight ends in the recent past.