Reactions among fans to the Detroit Lions’ first-round selection of Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson were all over the map on Thursday night. Some draft party attendees (including some at our own Pride of Detroit event) were guardedly optimistic about the selection, while others were not happy. Then there was this outburst from Matthew Stafford’s former backup quarterback:
However, expert analyst opinions on general manager Bob Quinn’s first choice in the 2019 draft were consistently high—though not as ebullient as Orlovsky, of course. Grades from major publications appeared to cluster around the B- to B+ range with caution against making too many Gronk comparisons.
Obviously, a Patriots-style scheme has plenty of room for a five-tool tight end. . . The fact that Detroit signed ex-Steeler Jesse James for $10.5M guaranteed in free agency suggests they want to keep two tight ends on the field, which helps simplify the looks they’ll see from opposing defenses.
Hockenson is more of a hustle-and-hit guy than a top blocking technician, and he doesn’t pull down quite as many tough catches as Travis Kelce-tier tight ends. But he should be productive and stay in the lineup for years.
Pete Prisco: He’s a good player, but let’s stop with all the comparisons to Rob Gronkowski. He’s a good blocker, but nowhere near as good as Gronkowski. He’s more George Kittle. Can he rush the passer because the Lions can’t rush the passer?
Multiple writers from CBS consider George Kittle to be a good comparison for Hockenson:
Chris Trapasso: Easy, same-school comparison here. Like Kittle, Hockenson is a serious seam-stretcher who plays faster than his 4.7 time in the 40. He has dynamic feet, springy leaping ability, and strong hands, so he’s the consummate big target over the middle. He’s probably a little ahead of where Kittle was as a blocker when he entered the league...
He is one of the highest-floor players in this draft. That said, I don’t like the value of taking any tight end this high, especially when so many players at other premium positions are still available. That’s the only reason this isn’t an A grade.
Hockenson is the most complete tight end in the draft with his ability to block and catch the ball. Hockenson is a good athlete too and will make some plays after the catch. The only thing that makes this strange is the Lions just signed Jesse James in free agency.
. . .sometimes, you have to break out of your comfort zone. Sometimes you have to do something different, something bolder. T.J. Hockenson was the safe pick, but that doesn’t mean that he was the right pick.
Grade: Too high
He’s excellent. He really is. He’s also a tight end. And the Lions just signed a good one in Jesse James. And they were already good in passing downs situations.
So yeah, too high.
Seriously, Ed Oliver is still on the board. Montez Sweat is still on the board. Don’t draft a tight end at No. 8.
Hockenson should develop into a fine tight end … just not one who really makes a difference for the Lions. . . Merely good tight ends are not and should not be taken with a top-10 pick, as Detroit learned the last time it used one on the position.
ESPN’s Todd McShay thought Hockenson was the best-case scenario for Detroit, and despite making the former Hawkeye the highest-selected tight end since Vernon Davis in 2006, it looks like most analysts like the fit and value as well. Several outlets mentioned how safe a pick this was, for a complete player that fills a need coming from a system similar to what the Lions want to run. Most of the doubters cited a belief that the draft position was too high to select a tight end but still loved Hockenson’s ability.