In recent history, the Detroit Lions have made some questionable draft decisions, but it seems tight end T.J. Hockenson doesn’t represent one of those for the team in the mind of experts.
Hockenson has done a decent job adjusting to the NFL, and while his health has proven a bit of an issue at times, in the end, that doesn’t change the fact that Hockenson has managed to show up in a big way on the field and make enough plays to be considered amongst the next star wave at the position in the league.
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As a result of that, analysts believe it is imperative for Detroit to find a way to keep Hockenson around on a contract extension sooner rather than later. That move was championed by Bleacher Report and writer Brent Sobleski, who took a look at naming the one move each team should make prior to the start of the 2022 season.
For Sobleski, Hockenson’s immense value all over the field figures as a big reason the Lions need to keep him around for the future given his ability to make catches and also clear the way up front.
“His value is different compared to someone like Kyle Pitts, who followed as a top-10 pick just two years later. Pitts is a unicorn in how he’s the size of a tight end with the traits of a wide receiver. Hockenson’s skill set is also rare in today’s game because he’s capable of affecting a game as a receiver and a blocker,” Sobleski wrote.
As a result of that, the analyst sees Hockenson as a key part of the team’s future, and a potential member of the young core for the team.
“The Lions are slowly building their roster under the direction of general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell. Hockenson joins Amon-Ra St. Brown, Penei Sewell, Aidan Hutchinson and Jameson Williams as the pieces who will form the franchise’s identity for years to come,” he wrote
Most believe Hockenson will be able to find a way to evolve and help take Detroit’s offense to the next level. Being able to have a re-signing before the season will lock him in before he could ever consider leaving in free agency.
Hockenson’s Career Stats & Highlights
There is simply no understating the importance of Hockenson to the Lions in the future moving forward in 2022 and beyond. The team hasn’t gotten much of anything from any of the other tight ends on their roster the last few years, and while he hasn’t had the most dramatic statistical impact thus far in his career, Hockenson was easily one of the team’s top rookies in 2019, as well as a top young player in 2020 and 2021 and a player capable of impacting both the run and the passing games.
During his rookie season in 2019 after being a first-round pick out of Iowa, many fans were upset with Hockenson for not making a bigger impact on the game. He had only 367 yards and 2 touchdowns on the year which is not the statistical impact that many people expected from him as a top selection for the team. 2020 was a major bounce back from that, though, and Hockenson put up 723 yards and 6 touchdowns to rebound well. This season, Hockenson put up 583 yards and 4 touchdowns to his credit and at times has been the only top pass catcher for the team given other injuries on the roster.
Here’s a look at some of Hockenson’s biggest career plays from 2020 season:
Clearly, Hockenson is on the right track to being thought of as one of the best players in the league at his position. For that reason, he may have already earned the long-term deal that most think he should get with the Lions.
When Lions Could Reach Extension With Hockenson
The Lions, under former general manager Bob Quinn, had a habit of knocking out extensions early just before or during training camp. Their new front office led by Brad Holmes has been much harder to pin down. It’s seemed Holmes has wanted to see what players offer in a full season before doing an extension. Predictions have been made that hold Hockenson could see an extension prior to the year starting this summer, but at this point, that is mere speculation. This offseason, the Lions did use their fifth-year option with Hockenson, ensuring he would stick around for the 2022 season. It wouldn’t be a shock to see a deal done this summer or during camp, but the Lions could wait and see with Hockenson and then make a new deal a priority before the 2023 offseason begins. If nothing is revealed before camp, it seems likely this will be the outcome.
At this point, most see Hockenson as a vital piece for the Detroit future. For that reason, analysts are pushing the team to make sure they can keep him around. Most see this as the top option for the team with regards to the rest of the offseason. Only time will tell when and if the Lions themselves agree.