Detroit Lions: T.J. Hockenson showing signs in second season

Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports) /

T.J. Hockenson is starting to live up to his billing for the Detroit Lions

Audible groans could be heard across the state of Michigan when the Detroit Lions opted to use the eighth overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft on Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson. After all, this is the same organization that was unable to figure out how to effectively use another first-round tight end in Eric Ebron who was drafted a mere five years earlier.

Famously, Ebron struggled to live up to his lofty draft status in Detroit after being drafted 10th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. It was only after leaving the Motor City in 2018 and joining the Indianapolis Colts that he received his first Pro Bowl nomination.

In Hockenson, many feared a repeat performance in Motown. But, at least initially, his selection seemed to be different.

Hockenson kicked off his career with the Lions setting a rookie record for tight ends, racking up six receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in Week One of the 2019 regular season. His yardage total was the most by a tight end in a debut in NFL history.

Unfortunately, the rest of Hockenson’s rookie season would pale in comparison. He’d end up recording just 32 receptions for 367 yards and two scores in 12 games. Hockenson was placed on Injured Reserve in early December due to an ankle injury.

Detroit Lions’ T.J. Hockenson coming into his own in 2020

But as many have pointed out in the past, NFL tight ends typically don’t start to excel until their second season. And so far, Hockenson has been on schedule.

Through eight games of his season year in Detroit, Hockenson has been on a tear. He’s racked up 34 catches for 360 yards and five scores so far. Four of those touchdown receptions have come in his past five games.

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One area where T.J. Hockenson has really improved is in making the most of his opportunities. During his rookie year, Hockenson caught just 32 of his 59 targets, giving him a 54.2% catch percentage. So far this season, he’s brought in 34 of his 49 targets, an increased catch percentage of 69.4%.