The Detroit Lions made a very clear offseason investment in the tight end position. After an extremely poor year from the Lions tight ends in 2018, Lions general manager Bob Quinn made sure he was not going to make the same mistake twice.
At first, it seemed like their main addition to the position was former Steelers tight end Jesse James. Quinn handed him a hefty contract that showed he expected James to be an immediate contributor and play at a higher level than he’s ever played at in the NFL.
But Quinn really shoved all of his chips in when he selected Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson with the eighth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. While the transition can be slow from the NCAA to the NFL, the fact that Quinn used such high draft capital on Hockenson suggests he expects significant contributions in his rookie year.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
What are realistic statistics for T.J. Hockenson’s rookie year?
My answer: Well, before I give my answer, let’s put this into context. Kyle Meinke of MLive put together the rookie performances of the last 20 first-round tight ends:
The Lions say they expect T.J. Hockenson to contribute right away. But a look at what the last 20 first-round tight ends have done suggests it'll be difficult in Year 1. Story: https://t.co/adPoUFe2Tg pic.twitter.com/9eCuKQJ2Pi— kyle meinke (@kmeinke) May 2, 2019
The best performance came in 2002 from Jeremy Shockey: 74 catches, 894 yards and two touchdowns. Only Evan Engram came close to Shockey’s phenomenal rookie year, pulling in 722 yards and six touchdown.
Of those past 20 first-round tight ends, only two were drafted higher than Hockenson: Vernon Davis and Kellen Winslow Jr. Unfortunately, both players had injury-shortened rookie seasons, limiting their output in their first years. Davis has gone on to have a great career, while Winslow busted due to injuries and off-field mistakes.
We must also consider that Hockenson will not just play a role as a receiver, but as a valued member of the team’s blocking brigade. There’s no doubt that much of reason Hockenson was so desired by the Lions was his ability to handle himself as a run blocker and pass protector.
So if we’re just talking his receiving output, I would predict something like a modest 35-catch, 450-yard rookie season.
How many yards will T.J. Hockenson have in his rookie year?
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