On our last PODcast, we power ranked the top 10 tight ends in the league right now. Detroit Lions' tight end T.J. Hockenson came in fourth on our list, behind the likes of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Darren Waller. While we could certainly be accused of some homerism on that list, ESPN’s recent survey of NFL coaches, executives, and scouts suggests we weren’t too impacted by our Honolulu Blue-colored glasses.
In said survey, Hockenson came in as the fifth-best tight end in the league today, with Mark Andrews being the additional tight end to surpass him on the ESPN poll.
“Just a really sound player,” one anonymous NFC executive said about Hockenson. “[He’s] shown ability to be a focal point. He’s been productive when healthy.”
Last year, with Kenny Golladay injured for most of the season, Hockenson did assume a bigger focal point of the offense. His 101 targets were second on the team and fifth among all tight ends. He ended up turning that into a career year, ending with his first Pro Bowl nod.
With many of the Lions’ receiving threats from 2020 now gone, Hockenson may become an even bigger focal point of Anthony Lynn’s offense this year.
“Traditional three-down guy, a little vanilla,” an AFC scout said. “But he’s shown he can be a productive guy in the passing game. It’s not like he’s not a downfield threat. ... He’s great at body positioning, boxing guys out and using his arms to catch the ball.”
Hockenson isn’t the only Lions player that has cracked the top 10 at his position in these ESPN surveys. Frank Ragnow was ranked the No. 3 interior offensive lineman—No. 1 center—while left tackle Taylor Decker was an honorable mention among offensive tackles.
But that’s it. If this team truly wants to be competitive, they are going to need to build a roster with more than just three players who are considered among the league’s best at their position. It’s the start of a rebuild, though, so let’s see what general manager Brad Holmes can do a year or two down the line.