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Exploring T.J. Hockenson's Yards-After-Catch Numbers

Read more on where T.J. Hockenson stands when it comes to his yards-after-the-catch production.

Detroit Lions second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson is having himself a real nice 2020 season. 

He currently is leading the fan vote at tight end for the Pro Bowl in the NFC, and is still on pace to set the TE receiving yards franchise record. 

One common complaint in Hockenson’s rookie season was how frequently he left his feet when running with the football. 

It led to a concussion in Week 4 last season, along with plenty of other hard falls. 

Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there have been more than a few individuals that have noted the frequency Hockenson falls to the ground in an effort to secure the catch, leaving yards to be gained on the field. 

It has been noticed, but it isn’t an exact science when it comes to attempting to quantify the necessity of him going to the ground.

Perhaps breaking down his yards-after-the-catch mark could lend some insight on the subject. 

Currently, Hockenson is third among all tight ends for yards gained after the reception. 

Considering he is also third in total receiving yards, it would make sense for his yards-after-the-catch total to also be toward the top. However, his yards-after-reception average of 5.1 yards is 17th-best out of 45 qualified tight ends.

NFL Next Gen Stats has created a proprietary formula to estimate the average expected yards after catch, based on numerous factors, such as how open the receiver is, how fast they’re traveling and how many defenders/blockers are in space. 

Of qualified tight ends, Hockenson averages just under 5.6 expected yards after each catch -- second-most in the NFL. But, on the field, he only averages a little over 5.4 yards once the ball is in his hands. That means Hockenson averages a nominal 0.1 yards below the expected number of yards that he should gain after the catch.

It's a bit hypercritical to say Hockenson needs to be better running with the football. However, the elite tight ends in the league do just that. 

For example, San Francisco's George Kittle averages two yards more than his expected yards-after-the-catch mark. Meanwhile, Kansas City's Travis Kelce averages one yard over his expected total. 

It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a testament to both players' run-after-the-catch ability. 

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In terms of forced missed tackles, Hockenson has five on the year. That’s a broken tackle on 8.6 percent of his 58 receptions. 

Of the 45 tight ends with at least 23 targets, Hockenson's avoided-tackle percentage lands 22nd on the list.

Hockenson has the athleticism and strength to continue developing in this aspect of the game. 

Although drops have been a bit of an issue this year -- he's tied for the most of any tight end with former Lions first-round pick Eric Ebron -- Hockenson is the complete package.

As with most of the best tight ends in the league, it takes a while to be dominant, and Hockenson is well on his way in year No. 2 of his career. 

Being more dangerous after the catch is the next step he needs to take in order to move up the tight end ranks.

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