When the Lions drafted TJ Hockenson in the first round, I gave the franchise an F for the pick. Hockenson two years later became the first Lions tight end to be selected to the Pro Bowl since David Sloan in the 90’s. Let’s make no mistake about it, Detroit’s selection of TJ Hockenson is still a complete and colossal failure.
First things first, we have to mention how god awful the tight end position is right now in the NFL. Robert Tonyan is the third-highest scoring fantasy tight end in the league right now. That’s not a joke. If you have a pulse, you’re relevant at the position.
Detroit is also a franchise that continues to make the same mistake over and over. It’s why they’re the Lions and continue to suck. The Lions drafted Eric Ebron 10th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. Ebron’s had an okay NFL career but for the most part, is very overrated. Certainly not worthy of a top ten selection.
Fast forward many years later and the Lions draft Hockenson 8th overall in 2019. As I wrote in my draft notes that year, there was just no way you can convince me the former Iowa tight end was the 8th best player in the draft. Christian Wilkins, Brian Burns, and Devin Bush are just some of those examples.
Hockenson has proven he can block but he’s far from explosive. In 14 games, the former Hawkeye has 60 receptions for 675 yards and six touchdowns. Nothing about that screams top ten pick. Hockenson ranks 19th among all tight ends in catch percentage. He’s behind Irv Smith and Noah Fant in that metric who were both picked well after in the 2019 draft.
Remember Brandon Pettigrew? Yeah, another tight end the Lions drafted in the first round (can’t make it up). Detroit picked Pettigrew in the first round and he had back to back 700 plus yard seasons. Then he fell off the face of the earth. Point being, Hockenson really has proven nothing.
Historically, the premier tight ends in the league have been taken in the middle rounds of the draft. George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, and Darren Waller were all drafted in the third round or later. Even when you expand it to the best in NFL history, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, etc weren’t drafted in the first round.
It’s almost impossible to ever justify Hockenson’s lofty draft status. Even from a skillset standpoint, both Irv Smith and Noah Fant are more athletic than Hockenson. If you take a tight end in the first round, he better play like some of the best in NFL history.
The Lions continue to be the Lions because of dumb decisions like this. Keep drafting tight ends in the first round. See how it works out for you. Unless they look like Kyle Pitts at Florida, do not reach at this position.