Detroit Lions: How much will tight end T.J. Hockenson contribute in 2019?
Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is not known for using his tight ends a lot. How much will T.J. Hockenson produce during his rookie season?
The Detroit Lions used their eighth overall pick on tight end T.J. Hockenson out of Iowa. Most people considered him to be the best and most complete tight end in the 2019 NFL Draft.
However, there were some questions after the selection as to if that was really the best direction they could have gone with their top 10 pick as new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is not well known for his use of tight ends in his offense. In his 12 years as an offensive coordinator Bevell’s highest targeted tight end has averaged 65.4 targets, 42.1 receptions, 485.6 yards, and 4.3 touchdowns per year.
The best single season a tight end has had under him came in 2016 when tight end Jimmy Graham caught 65 passes on 95 targets for 923 yards and six touchdowns. Graham is the best tight end that Bevell ever had on his offenses and on average Graham caught 88 passes for 683 yards and six touchdowns on 88 targets. All three years Graham spent under Bevell he was second on the team in targets.
The Lions’ offense currently features a top three wide receiver set of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr, and Danny Amendola. At the moment the starting tight end position is most likely Hockenson’s. Due to a myriad of factors, but mainly because he is a rookie and Bevell’s offense doesn’t generally target tight ends a ton, I think that Hockenson will finish third on the team in targets behind Golladay and either Jones Jr or Amendola.
Through Bevell’s tenure as an offensive coordinator the top tight end on the team has, on average, been the third most targeted player on the team; another reason I think Hockenson will finish third on the team in targets. In the four years as an offensive coordinator that Bevell’s tight ends have finished third on the team in targets they have averaged 48 catches for 562 yards and five touchdowns on 73-74 targets per season over those four years.
Taking into account that Bevell will look to have a balanced offense, I would think Bevell drops back to pass with quarterback Matthew Stafford around 500 times, give or take. When averaging out the percentages and averages of times that Bevell targets the tight end, Hockenson will probably receive around 75 targets his rookie season.
After years of a drop prone Eric Ebron and a general below average level of play from his tight ends, Stafford will probably not be quite as trusting throwing to Hockenson to begin the season. But he will learn quickly that Hockenson can be a trusted target for him to throw to as he has very sure hands and the ability to get open consistently via good route running and solid athleticism. Hockenson will likely see Stafford begin to throw him the football more and more as the season progresses and especially in the second half of the season.
Hockenson should finish his rookie year with an above average stat line for a rookie tight end (it is one of the hardest positions to translate to from college to NFL). Look for Hockenson to finish the 2019 regular season with about 75 targets, 50 receptions, 600 yards, and seven touchdowns. That would give him a stat line of 65-50-600-7, which would be very good for a rookie tight end.
T.J. Hockenson will have a very good rookie year and then could very possibly explode in his second season and possibly even challenge Kenny Golladay as the number one target on the offense once he gains experience in the league and develops a rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford.