Rare athletic ability for a tight end that should allow him
to be a yard-after-catch machine in the NFL. (2:12,
3:08, 3:46, 4:31, 6:31, 6:57)
Almost impossible to cover down the seam, superb route-runner
who understands how to set up his vertical route and will usually
create almost immediate separation when the defender gives him
a clean release. (0:44, 0:47, 2:21, 2:39, 5:12, 6:14, 9:09)
Maintains field presence and displays large catch radius
and ability to adjust to balls outside of his frame. (0:47,
Displays spatial awareness and excellent body control along
sideline and backline. (4:30, 11:12)
Was not utilized vertically much in college but flashed ability
to track ball in the air downfield and win contested-catch opportunities.
(4:07, 6:14); does not flinch in traffic.
Shows the aptitude to turn his route into a "hot read"
without being prompted. (2:16,
6:19) and understands when to apply
the "scramble drill." (4:07)
Scrappy yet fundamentally sound blocker capable of holding
up against or eliminating defensive linemen (0:46,
1:19, 1:39, 5:43, 5:49) who either sticks to his defender
(1:19, 2:37, 6:12) or pancakes him (0:18, 3:30, 5:56); understands his role in blocking
5:44) and not afraid to look for
extra work. (5:31)
Looks slight even at 251 pounds; although not uncommon for
rookie tight ends, probably needs a full offseason with NFL
strength coaches before realizing full potential.
Needs to have better feel of finding soft spot against zone
coverage and will, at times, gear down a bit on his route when
he knows he's not the primary target. (3:00,
Occasionally flies out of the blocks and can't slow himself
down in time to square up his block on the second level (4:26,
8:19) and can be too easily discarded
at times because he overextends. (5:39,
6:08, 7:20, 7:53)
Outside of a few isolated incidents in which he appears to get
overly excited on the second level and either doesn't square up
his defender or gets overextended, Hockenson could teach a graduate
level blocking course to college tight ends. Perhaps it shouldn't
come as a surprise that a pupil of Iowa HC Kirk Ferentz is a strong
blocker, but this year's Mackey Award winner is exceptional with
his foot, hip and hand placement nine times out of 10 and combines
that with a passion to erase or bury his defender that jumps off
the tape. (He put on a clinic against Indiana this season for
anyone that cares to click on some of the blocking links above.)
Even if we include some of the NFL's tight ends such as Darren Fells and Lee Smith who stay employed almost solely because of
their ability to block, Hockenson may enter the league on that
level. For a 250-pound kid three years removed from high school
to stand out that much in an area where most veteran NFL tight
ends are happy to be average is wildly impressive.
Of course, tight ends don't come off the board inside the top
10-15 picks just because they block well. Hockenson has that covered
as well, as he dropped only one of 51 catchable targets last season
per Pro Football Focus. His athleticism (4.7 speed, 37.5-inch
vertical, 10-plus foot broad) makes him a run-after-catch nightmare.
He accentuates the natural advantage he has over linebackers or
safeties by running sharp routes and stacking defenders on downfield
throws. Hockenson can also adjust to poorly thrown balls and elevate
high enough to give quarterbacks a chance at a touchdown pass
at the back of the end zone that would often be a throw-away for
Whereas Mike Gesecki and David Njoku might be the freakiest talents
I have seen at tight end in a while. Hockenson may be on O.J. Howard's level in terms of being the most complete I have evaluated.
If he's sounding like a blue-chip, can't-miss prospect, it might
be because he is. Sure, he's not the most elite athlete, may let
a few too many balls get into his body and gets too hyped up at
times while trying to execute a block, but the last two of those
three things can be improved by any position coach worth his salt
in the NFL, and the first "flaw" is more of a nitpick
than anything because he is a well above-average athlete. Howard
somehow slipped to No. 19 in the 2017 draft, but don't look for
a repeat here. Hockenson should be a multi-time Pro Bowler almost
regardless of where he lands. And if he is as fortunate as Kelce
was to land in an offense with a sharp offensive mind like Andy
Reid, he could end up being considered one of the great ones.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.