2019: TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa; 8th overall
Based on history (Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew), it was too easy to question the Lions using a first-round pick on tight end again in 2019. Adding to the angst was Hockenson being a top-10 pick, like Ebron was in 2014.
Hockenson missed the final five games of last season due to a thumb injury that needed surgery. But he was leading the team in receptions at the time of the injury, with 61. In 2020, he earned a Pro Bowl nod and led all NFC tight ends with 67 catches.
As he eyes a lucrative multi-year deal, naysayers will point to Hockenson missing at least four games in two of this three seasons. His Pro Football Focus blocking grade also dropped significantly from his first two seasons in 2021 (45.1, after 70.9 in 2020 and 60.8 as a rookie).
But keeping Hockenson around long-term is a priority for general manager Brad Holmes, and picking up his fifth-year option before the upcoming deadline if a multi-year deal isn’t done is a formality.
Using a top-10 overall pick on him aside, though it can be a knock on this grade, Hockenson has held up his end of the bargain. He’ll be in a Lions’ uniform for awhile to come.