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Notes: Advanced statistic confirms T.J. Hockenson needs to improve his YAC

It’s not a surprise, but statistics support the eye test that Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson needs to do more with the ball after his catches.

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NFL: DEC 13 Packers at Lions Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s been a long-running joke that Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson constantly falls down once he catches a pass. Like most jokes, it grounded in a bit of truth and a bit of exaggeration.

However, on Tuesday, advanced metrics site Football Outsiders dropped a statistic that suggests there’s perhaps more truth than exaggeration in that reputation for Hockenson. Writer Bryan Knowles explained the statistic they call “YAC+.”

“YAC+ estimates how much YAC a receiver gained compared to what we would have expected from an average receiver catching passes of similar length in similar down-and-distance situations,” the description wrote, via the Football Outsiders Almanac 2022. “This is imperfect—we don’t base YAC+ on what route a player runs, and obviously a go route will have more YAC than a comeback—but it does a fairly good job of telling you if this receiver gets more or less YAC than other receivers with similar usage patterns.”

In other words, they estimated the YAC expected for each receiver based on depth of target and down and distance.

You can probably guess where this is going. Among the 55 tight ends who qualified for this statistic, T.J. Hockenson finished 49th, averaging -1.1 YAC+—meaning he averages over a yard less than expected per reception.

Hockenson has had a solid start to his career, which is why the Lions exercised his fifth-year option earlier this offseason. However, head coach Dan Campbell told the media that there is plenty of room for the former first-round pick to grow, and Hockenson knows it too.

“He’ll tell you that too, that he’s still got room to grow even in there, in the run-blocking for us,” Campbell said. “I think he takes that next step on top of continuing to improve in the pass game. But yeah, I think he still has more room to grow.”

Check out the entire article on YAC+ here, which also features appearances by Kalif Raymond (in a positive manner) and Jamaal Williams (in a negative manner).

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