Should the Lions Be Concerned about Rookie Tight End T.J. Hockenson?
When the Lions and general manager Bob Quinn selected Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson No. 8 overall in this year's NFL Draft, there were plenty of critics.
Those critics were silenced, after the rookie burst onto the scene and broke the all-time record for receiving yards from a tight end in their first NFL game.
Since Week 1, though, Hockenson has looked, well, more like a rookie.
First off, Hockenson has caught two touchdown passes on the year, but there have been plenty of more opportunities for him to score.
He has had both hands on the ball in the end zone more than a few times without the play resulting in a score.
Depending on your definition of a drop, you could say he should have more TDs by now.
However, drops are a subjective stat.
Looking at multiple sources, Hockenson has only been credited for one drop, per Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Fox Sports has him down for two.
For comparison's sake, let's look a look at the drop stats for former Lions tight end Eric Ebron, now an Indianapolis Colt, and New Orleans Saints TE Jared Cook.
PFF has each of them down for an NFL-worst four drops.
Usually, a drop on the stat sheet refers to a pass that requires little difficulty to reel in.
I do believe it's fair to say that Hockenson is a natural hands-catcher.
Securing the catch -- whether it be maintaining possession after hitting the ground or once the ball goes through the hands of a defender -- has been Hockenson's biggest downfall as a pass-catcher so far.
Let's not forget, one of the biggest strengths of Hockenson coming into the NFL Draft were his reliable hands.
In his collegiate career at Iowa (spanned two seasons), he only had two total drops.
Another big plus Hockenson boasted was his run-blocking ability.
In today's NFL, it's not easy to find a threat in the passing game at the TE position that is also reliable when it comes to run-blocking.
Again using Pro Football Focus as a reference, Hockenson currently sits as the 20th-best run-blocking tight end out of 70 TEs that have played in at least 20 percent of their teams' offensive snaps.
For a rookie, that's not too shabby, and you would hope that it's a part of his game which improves over time.
In contrast, fellow recent first-round tight ends Noah Fant of the Denver Broncos, Hayden Hurst of the Baltimore Ravens and O.J. Howard of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all rank in the bottom 10 of the league in run-blocking.
Tight end is a historically difficult position to make a large impact in, in year one.
Some would even argue that it's the most difficult position in the game, as tight ends have to be able to do everything well from an offensive standpoint.
However, the expectations are different for Hockenson, considering how high he was selected.
At least, there have been flashes of greatness. But consistency will be key for the rookie moving forward.
Regardless of how inconsistently productive "Hock" has been thus far, the future is still very bright for the first-year pro.