Realistic Expectations for T.J. Hockenson in Year No. 2
Recently, Detroit Lions second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson has been working out with fellow former Iowa tight end and 2019 All-Pro George Kittle.
The Hockenson hype and comparisons to Kittle have already begun for 2020.
Coming off a season-ending ankle injury, there were some questions as to just how healthy Hockenson was at this point in time.
If the workout videos are any indication, Hockenson appears to be well on his way to a full recovery.
Considering that Hockenson was a top-10 draft pick a year ago, expectations are still sky-high for the young player.
Unfortunately, the tight end position has a notoriously large learning curve.
Oftentimes, it’s not until year three when teams start seeing top-notch production from a tight end.
Using some examples of a few of the top tight ends currently in the game, let’s compare and contrast what Hockenson needs to do in his second season in order to keep a similar career trajectory with some of the league's best.
The general consensus for the top three tight ends right now in the NFL are Kittle, Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz.
In Kittle’s second year in the NFL, he really blew up.
On a whopping 136 targets, he amassed 88 receptions, 1,377 yards and five touchdowns.
Kelce put up 67 receptions, 862 yards and five touchdowns on 87 targets his second year.
Lastly, in Ertz’s second season in the league, he saw 89 targets, 58 catches, 702 yards and three touchdowns.
Now, unlike the other aforementioned players, Hockenson was the only first-round pick of the group.
The draft status does alter the outlook of how quickly a player should contribute. However, the situation and scheme a tight end is in also greatly impact production.
It would be unwise to expect Kittle-like targets and volume for Hockenson when the Lions are loaded with receiving weapons.
Hockenson is very unlikely to be the focal point of the offense on a weekly basis.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford also has a penchant for spreading the ball around.
If Hockenson can stay healthy all year, I think you can call 62 receptions, 725 yards and five touchdowns a success -- basically doubling his stat line from 2019.
That would be on par with some of the other greats at the position, and would show enough growth to prevent fans from prematurely calling him a bust.