NAME: T.J. Hockenson
POSITION: Tight End
CLASS: Redshirt Sophomore
JERSEY: No. 38
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 243 lbs
Route Running – Arc releases at the LOS are effective to filter out from in-line alignment. Very smooth and natural at the top of his routes. Has shown versatility on stick routes, deep crossers, delays, seam routes, motioned flat routes, etc to provide ample impact in the air.
Hands – Wonderful softness in hands to ensure he’s snaring the ball. Caught a wet ball well (PSU, 2018) without gloves. Has softness to his hands to ensure he’s not jarred and missing the nose of the football in contested situations.
Versatility – A do it all TE prospect. Well versed in life as an in-line blocker, perfectly comfortable in pass protection and has excelled in that area. RAC monster, catch point winner, in-line TE with vertical ability. A true X-factor weapon.
Contested Catch Ability – Has high pointed a few (Indiana, Wisconsin 2018) balls with good sturdiness as contacted and strong hand-eye coordination. Well developed frame and catch radius flash and allow him to be a bail-out option in tight coverage situations.
Run After Catch Ability – More of a second gear than you’d expect for his stature, has blown through pursuit angles on more than one occasion and made defenders look silly. Has hurdled more than one defender in the open field as well. Powerful, difficult to wrestle down at the catch point.
Power At POA – One of the most tenacious blockers I’ve ever laid eyes on. The foot urgency and finishing skills are tremendous, will bury DEs and OLBs alike. Effective to collapse or wash down and ensure there’s a soft edge for ball carriers.
Competitive Toughness –Love his play demeanor. Is a player you’d love to clone ten of for your offense. Functional strength is exceptional, as is his relentlessness to get under the pads of defenders. Works hard to reset his hands and establish his base to uproot.
Flexibility –His lower half moves well, but he isn’t the free moving athlete that his teammate (Fant) is. Plays with control and fluidity, graceful in efforts to pivot sharply. Shows effective leverage and pad level as a drive blocker in the run game.
Balance –Blocking balance is terrific, shows an ability to play sticky on lateral contact and work his feet to leverage himself appropriately relative to the play. Will make far angled blocks look easy with how smooth he is scraping across the face to reset the hook.
Football Intelligence –Impressive polish for just a redshirt sophomore, wins in ample ways and does so not just with unique and special athletic skills but also from a technical standpoint as well. Should experience a lesser transition to the NFL, given his in-line pedigree.
BEST TRAIT – Versatility
WORST TRAIT – Deep Speed (I guess?)
BEST FILM – Wisconsin (2018)
WORST FILM – Penn State (2018)
RED FLAGS – None
T.J. Hockenson is one of the easiest/hardest evaluations of my season. Hockenson is terrifically balanced as a football player and it doesn’t take more than a few reps to know he’s an immediate starter at the NFL level with scheme diversity. The challenge for Hockenson’s tape? Listing a weakness. Hockenson is comfortable in any number of roles, giving comfort that he’ll be fine in WCO or vertical passing offenses alike. He’s a scheme transcendent prospect.
Route-Running – Strong route-runner who runs a diverse tree and isn’t limited to any portion of the field. When teams tried to match up with him in man coverage, elevated his intensity and erupted out of breaks much quicker. Still needs development in his footwork, can stand to be more deceptive to manipulate off coverage. Breaks routes off sharply and accelerates out of his cuts. Terrific hip snap to get his head around and find the ball.
Ball Skills – Consistently snags the ball outside his frame. Strong hands and needs very little time to react to a pass when he gets out of his break. Big catch radius that he deploys freely. Extremely sure-handed and reliable as a receiver. Flashes of high-point ability are eye-popping, but rarely targeted in those situations.
Speed – Might not be Noah Fant-fast, but he’s close. Excellent speed for a tight end, capable of stretching the seam or taking off after the catch. Has the rare combination of initial burst and long speed to detach from coverage late. Consistently runs by deep coverage to win vertically. Tracks the ball beautifully down the field.
Run Blocking – Elite run blocker. Mashes opponents consistently, finishes as often as possible. Creates legit movement with elite technique and functional strength. Drives defenders off the ball and won’t settle for stalemate. Highly competitive to stay on contact even as defenders attempt to circumvent his blocks. Unbelievable grip strength to latch on to bigger opponents and force them out of gaps. Approaches assignments in space with good body control and almost always hits his target. Plays with a relentless temperament that gets under opponents’ skin.
Contested Catch – Unbothered by contact around the catch point. Good strength to play through defenders and box out contact at the catch point. Strong hands and big radius aid him, and has shown the ability to hang on while taking a shot in the middle of the field. Will occasionally let the ball into his body rather than play above the rim.
YAC – Best known for mashing the hurdle button on oncoming tacklers. Will also drop his shoulder and run through contact, has exceptional balance to stay on his feet despite big shots. Consistently works through contact and falls forward. Intense competitor post-catch. Home run threat with the ball in his hands.
Separation Quickness – Showed good burst out of his cuts in flashes, varies pace well coming into his short route breaks. Does a good job separating without losing speed out of his cut. Is more athletic than people think. Takes good angles out of his breaks to maximize windows against zone coverage.
Pass Protection – Doesn’t stay in to protect a whole lot, but when he does, the results are exceptional. Patient in his strikes, shows legit footwork to protect the edge. Had a couple isolated reps in space against defensive ends. Handles business and rarely needs assistance 1v1.
Competitive Toughness – Ultimate competitor and tough guy. Wants to knock your teeth in. Physical aspects of the game come incredibly naturally to him. Every play he steps on the battlefield looking for action.
Athleticism/Size – Size and length are terrific for the position. Probably has room to add some bulk, but already plays with elite functional strength. NFL is another beast of course. Think he’s going to test a lot better than most people do. He can run.
BEST TRAIT – Everything/Blocking
WORST TRAIT – Consistently high-pointing
RED FLAGS – None
Other than the fact that he isn’t an e-l-i-t-e athlete, Hockenson basically has everything else you want at the tight end position. He may not be Noah Fant/Evan Engram territory as a pure athlete, but he’s the next best thing. Hockenson can stretch the field against anyone, beat defensive backs in man coverage, embarrass defenders after the catch and smash defensive ends into the opposite C-gap with his leg drive and tenacity.
Some football players are just easy to figure out. That’s Hockenson. He’s pro-ready, dynamic and an extreme competitor. He’ll be a top ten overall player on my board and should be a lock to go Round 1, even at a position that is not typically highly valued.
Routes – Smooth and physical route runner that knows how to find space in zone coverage and challenge the seam. Has experience running a full route tree with no limitations. Does well to manipulate coverage in his release and stem to uncover and establish leverage. Route breaks are clean and crisp. Gets off the line of scrimmage cleanly, with a variety of techniques and the ability to reduce his surface area to get into his stem. Doesn’t tip routes and knows how to sell his breaks.
Hands – Hands are soft and reliable. Plucks the football out of the air with suction cups for hands. Routinely extends his arms and secures the football away from his frame. Exceptional at hanging on through contact and making plays in traffic.
Ball Skills – Attacks the football with an alpha mentality and makes great adjustments to the football. Demonstrates high levels of concentration to haul in acrobatic catches. Can scoop out the low throws, elevate and extend in any direction. Tracks the football and positions himself to compete.
YAC Ability – Decisive and has good field vision. Willing to use that off-hand to execute stiff arms and create space. Will challenge tacklers with physicality and strong contact balance. Isn’t afraid to hurdle dudes. Elite competitor with the ball in his hands despite not being the most explosive.
Play Speed – Not going to just blow by coverage, but good athletic ability plus excellent technique maximizes his movement skills. Nuanced player. Has the juice needed to separate from linebackers in man coverage. Does well to alter his route tempo when finding space.
Play Strength – Holds his own and often overpowers defensive lineman as a blocker in the trenches. Plays with exceptional balance and good body control. Plays with great leverage to maximize his power. Breaks through contact at the top of routes and is sturdy in contested situations.
In-line Blocking – Does well to square up blocks, connect with his hands, leverage his hips and accelerate his feet to create movement. Aggressive, finishing mentality when drive blocking. Loves to find leverage points, get under pads and put opponents on skates.
Space Blocking – Connects well in space, but will occasionally get over-aggressive and whiff/fall off contact. Can be used and has been effective both flexed out or lead blocking from the backfield.
Versatility – Shows the ability to fill endless roles as both a receiver and blocker at a high level. Offers dynamic playmaking potential to all areas of the field.
BEST TRAIT – Versatility
WORST TRAIT – Burst? Controlling aggression as a blocker?
RED FLAGS – None
Hockenson is a rare blend of versatility to win as a “modern” tight end with all the throwback ability of a classic player. He is a polished route runner with excellent hands and ball skills that wins both in-line and flexed. He is a punishing blocker that can lineup anywhere in the formation and create space for his teammates. On top of his well-round skill set is that he is an elite competitor in everything he does. Hockenson should be one of the true difference makers at the tight end position in the NFL for years to come.