The Detroit Lions entered this draft knowing they had to get another tight end to pair with Jesse James in Darrell Bevell’s offense.
General manager Bob Quinn decided the No. 8 pick was the perfect opportunity to come away with the top-ranked tight end in the draft, Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson.
Even sharing snaps with teammate Noah Fant, Hockenson won the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end and the Big Ten Tight End of the Year award. He started 13 games, and led the team with 49 catches for 760 yards (15.5 average) and six touchdowns.
“I’m going to do whatever helps the team,” Hockenson said in a conference call Thursday night. “I’m excited to get into Detroit. I’m excited to get back to work. I’m excited to dive into the playbook and learn as fast as a I can in order to be a trustworthy guy.”
Hockenson is a standout as both a pass catcher and run blocker, which makes him a fit for any scheme.
Detroit’s tight ends accounted for just 13 percent (43) of the team’s catches last season, and the offense missed the big plays down the seam and yards after the catch from the position. Now with Hockenson and James, the Lions hope they’ve added that element back into the offense. They could also much easier utilize 12 personnel (two tight ends) in their offense.
“You just have to be a student of the game,” Hockenson said about getting to Detroit, learning the playbook, and delving into what it takes to play the tight end position at a high level in the NFL.
“That’s what I’m going to continue to do at the next level and I’m going to work real hard to be where I need to be. I’m my own tight end. I’m a three-down tight end and I watched guys before this offseason like George (Kittle), (Travis) Kelce, (Rob) Gronkowski and just take little tidbits from their game and bring them into mine. I’m going to watch plenty more guys and see what they do well and try to translate them well into my game.”
View photos of tight end T.J. Hockenson.
There were 41 tight ends around the league in 2018 who recorded more than the 21 receptions that Levine Toilolo had as Detroit’s leading pass catcher at the position. There were 14 tight ends league-wide who had more catches than all of the Lions’ tight ends combined.
Quinn always talks about blending best player available with need. In Hockenson, it appears he’s done that.