What do you think of when you think Iowa Football? For some, they're a program of misfits and 2-star recruits that happen to outperform themselves. Others think they're a group of hard-hitting farm boys and overlooked recruits that get mended into NFL Freaks. And yet, no matter what you want to say about Iowa Football there's one undeniable trait. They're damn good at the next level.
Whether it be George Kittle, Pat Angerer, Austin Blythe, Mike Daniels, Marshall Yanda, Desmond King, Adrian Clayborn, Josh Jackson or even Bob Sanders. All of them have been phenomenal NFL players. All-Pro's, NFL Defensive Players of the Year, or all-rookie teams and even Super Bowl Champions. All of these players have stepped up at the next level and performed. While some careers might be over others are just getting started.
Enter TJ Hockenson. From the small town of Chariton, Iowa... which you've never heard of. At just over 4,000 strong, Hockenson lit up the town of Chariton and the state of Iowa in high school football. He's the state of Iowa's all-time leader in receptions and touchdowns. He's second in receiving yards. And he did it playing tight end. He went on to Tight End U (the University of Iowa, the real Tight End U), overshadowed by big names you might have heard of, Like, Noah Fant and Peter Pekar. But after two years of hard work he went from a true Freshman playing special teams to the 2018 John Mackey Award winner for college footballs most outstanding tight end. And now is the best tight end in the 2019 NFL Draft.
TJ Hockenson: Tight End, University of Iowa
Measurables: 6'5 250 Pounds
Career Statistics (Per ESPN.com): In 23 career games Hockenson totaled 73 receptions, 1080 yards, 9 receiving touchdowns, 1 career rushing attempt, 4 rushing yards, and 1 rushing touchdown.
Honors: 2018 John Mackey Award Winner . . . named Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year in the Big Ten . . . first-team All-America by American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and USA Today . . . Walter Camp second-team All-America . . . second-team All-America by Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) . . . second-team All-America by The Associated Press and Phil Steele . . . Academic All-Big Ten for second year . . . first-team All-Big Ten by league media and second team by coaches . . . first-team All-Big Ten by Associated Press and Phil Steele
40-Yard Dash: 4.7
Bench Press: 17 reps
Vertical Jump: 37.5"
Broad Jump: 123.0"
3-Cone Drill: 7.02
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.18
60-Yard Shuttle: 11.55
- Blocking: There's an unwritten rule of Iowa football - until you can block you don't even get to think about running a route. And, Hockenson is an absolute mauler. Some tight ends take plays off during blocking. Not Hockenson. An eager blocker whose ALWAYS looking to finish and humiliate you. Hockenson can open up a hole in the blocking game any way you ask.
- Need a 287-pound defensive tackle moved with a nice wham block? TJ is your guy. Is a talented edge causing havoc amongst your rushing attack? Put TJ face up on him. He'll put a stop to it. Does a 2nd level player need to be stopped to seal the edge? Guess what... TJ wants to put him into the dirt. He'll be comfortable blocking anywhere and anyone. Hock is that good.
(Editor's Note: #BlockingPorn)
- Soft Hands: Hockenson is an incredible receiving threat. He has an uncanny ability to catch anything thrown at him. He'll get low, he'll go up top, it doesn't matter Hockenson just delivers. Hockenson isn't afraid to get hit and his 6'5 frame has a large catch radius for a tight end like him. Whether it's in the red zone like this..
- Or athletic contested catches like this, he's going to make the play more often than not. And, if you don't find an answer to him in coverage, he'll kill you. All. Game. Long.
- YACability: Where Hockenson truly excels is yards after catch. He'll flat up embarrass you if he can. He might be a bigger tight end but he can move. Safeties who underestimate his speed can get embarrassed when he beats them to a corner. Hockenson doesn't shy away from contact either, he'll run over if given the opportunity. But, he truly shines on third down. He finds the sticks and has a nose for getting hard yards when they're needed.
- He's an absolutely superb runner after the catch. Oh, and if you're not careful, he might just go over you too.
- Over Aggression?: This might sound crazy, but the only real weak point of Hockenson's game is his over aggression when run blocking. When working up to the second level he has the tendency to get his chest over his toes and lean on defenders instead of squaring up and getting his hands on them. Hockenson can also get out of control when coming in for a big inline-block. He never holds but he can at times slip off blocks. But, if he can temper his blocking aggression down from a 974/10 down to a measly 694/10 both he and the offense he'll be playing in could benefit greatly.
- Scheme Fit: Hockenson is an absolute beast and could line up anywhere. He'd be a plug and play starter in any NFL offense. He's got throwback style mean streak blocking coupled with modern day speed and precise crisp route running. He could play h-back, tight-end, y-back and even in a pinch could be a fullback (However, that would be stolen valor against fullbacks. Sorry, I don't make the rules). At the end of the day, where do you need a tight end? Hock's got it down.
- Comparison: A 9/10th-sized Rob Gronkowski
- Overall Projection: Hockenson is the best tight end in the draft. Though his teammate isn't far behind. I could see Hockenson going in the Top 10 if there's a run on edge defenders. Hockenson is a lock for the first round. The only way he makes it out of round one is if he a. has an injury or b. has a horrendous showing at his pro day.
- Final Thoughts: Do I want Hockenson? Of course. Will he be there? No chance. Hockenson is by far the most polished tight end I've ever seen. He can do it all. He might have a lot to live up to but there's no doubt in my mind he can live up to it. If he by some miracle of God was available at 26 for the Colts I'd want Ballard to take him in a heartbeat. With the Colts having 0 tight ends contracted after the 2019 season ends it could be a smart investment to get a great tight end in the wings while you still have good tight ends to show him the ropes as a pro.
But then again it's not like Iowa tight ends have EVER helped the Co- or have they???