Detroit Lions: T.J. Hockenson can prove his value in 2020

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 08: T.J. Hockenson #88 of the Detroit Lions look to block while playing the New England Patriots during a preseason game at Ford Field on August 08, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 08: T.J. Hockenson #88 of the Detroit Lions look to block while playing the New England Patriots during a preseason game at Ford Field on August 08, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

T.J. Hockenson’s rookie season ended on injured reserve. With a closer look at the position, it shows he can prove his value with the Detroit Lions in 2020.

Tight end T.J. Hockenson’s first season with the Detroit Lions was lackluster. Although his first career game showed us the potential he brings to the Motor City, posting six receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals,  the rest of his rookie campaign left us wanting more.

In Week 12 of the regular season, Hockenson suffered an ankle injury that put him on injured reserve. He ended his season with 32 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games played. It was a season that doesn’t sit to well with Lions fans, but the numbers were to be expected.

The controversy that surrounds this pick is still a vocal point among fans, with many of them asking what could have been if the team took a different direction in last year’s draft. Nevertheless, Hockenson can still prove that he was the right pick; here are the reasons why.

Rookie Tight End’s Don’t Preform Well

This narrative was brought up when the Lions first drafted Hockenson. There is truth to this statement and statistics do back it up. Here are some of the notable tight ends in the league and how they fared in their rookie seasons.

When comparing Hockenson’s rookie year to some of the tight ends who’ve had great careers, it’s found that there are similarities in the numbers.

It’s easy to understand that more production is wanted since Hockenson was a top-10 pick in the draft, but Detroit has to take what they can get. Washington Redskins’ Vernon Davis was a top-10 pick with an underwhelming rookie season, yet turned it around to have a solid career.

No matter their draft position, it’s found that most tight ends are not at the top of the league as rookies. There is notion to believe that Hockenson’s first season isn’t what the exception should be moving on. The expectation is for him to improve and he can show this with a strong sophomore outing.

A Look at the NFL’s Top Teams

When looking at the teams with the highest finish this season, they all have something in common. Four out of the top five teams prominently feature a tight end. For example, the Baltimore Ravens have tight end Mark Andrews and San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle is one of the league’s best.

Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints use tight ends Travis Kelce and Jared Cook. All four of these teams showcase top offensive units in the league. Of course, It takes more than just one player to build an elite offense, but the role their tight ends play is a massive boost to that unit.

The Green Bay Packers are the outlier here as tight end Jimmy Graham had a pedestrian season.
Teams don’t need to have a top tight end to produce a top offense, that is not the argument presented here.

There is a trend to be seen that having a great tight end is a valuable piece when building an offense.

Darrell Bevell’s Philosophy

It’s no secret that the Lions want to feature a tight end in their offense. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who came from Seattle, is known to love the tight end position. In 2014, while talking to  The Seattle Times, Bevell went in-depth on what tight ends bring to the table.

"“It’s huge—to be able to have a mismatch on linebackers, and to be able to try and find that—the defense has to decide, ‘ok, is the matchup with the linebacker the correct one to use or do we need to start putting safeties on them?’ Then that does different things for us—then we have to look at the matchups and sometimes it uncovers some disguises and all those kinds of things that can open up when you have a factor that’s there in the middle.”."

It’s safe to say that T.J. Hockenson hasn’t been forgotten about and that the team should have big plans for him next season.

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Everything points to the Detroit Lions wanting to follow the trend of featuring a tight end in their offense. If T.J. Hockenson can step into this role next season, all at the same time helping the Lions produce a top offensive unit, he can prove his value in 2020.