2019 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Ht: 6'4" Wt: 250
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Evaluated by: Austin Smith
Traditional tight ends with All-Pro upside like Hockenson are a rare commodity in this age of football. Every year we seem to have a few tight ends with top-100 grades that prosper in the passing game, but are less than adequate as a blocker. Hockenson isn't that guy. With teammate Noah Fant being the more versatile receiving option, Hockenson did the majority of his work from the inline position.
He was consistently asked to block in the running game while also joining Fant as one of the Hawkeyes most dependable pass-catchers at a position that was often lined up across from a defensive lineman or linebacker to slow him up. Still, Hockenson's skillset was a major reason the Hawkeyes were able to be one of the more balanced teams in college football, helping them rank 24th nationally in time of possession. His dual-threat skillset was also a primary reason he was named the 2018 Mackey Award winner as the nation's top tight end.
As a blocker, Hockenson displays very advanced traits for a college player. He has a solid punch, and uses good hand-placement to gain control of his opponents. Once he locks on, he can be a nasty finisher, although I wish we saw that side more frequently. He also flashes good footwork when the run is designed to get outside. His initial punch is strategic, then he leverages himself properly to use his feet to get around the defender and pin them inside. However, it would be inaccurate to label him as an NFL-ready blocker.
While he shows flashes to be able to do anything an NFL team would ask of him as a blocker, there are inconsistencies. There are times he is in space and lunges at his target because he is playing too high. There are other times he is on the backside and settles with just giving the defender a shove. He also occasionally tries to cut the man across from him, and it's not always effective. Obviously, no player has tape of them consistently handling their opponents throughout a game, but teams will need to help harness his techniques in order to make him a more consistent blocker.
As a pass catcher, I was actually shocked to see how quick he was for a guy his size. Iowa frequently asked him to run possession routes that require him getting in and out of a break and gaining separation. He showed above-average body control to transition in and out of those breaks in order to be on balance and get the maximum amount of separation. His focus is also very good to be this kind of player. In these routes, the ball is often out of the quarterback's hands before Hockenson comes out of his break. He gets his head around quick, locates the ball and extends his strong hands to it naturally. While I am not sure he has the speed to threaten defenses deep like his teammate Fant, he is a monstrous target that is capable of making plays down the field because of his large frame and strength. His ball skills are as impressive as his focus, and both are important qualities to bring in contested passes.
When focusing on where Hockenson can improve, consistency was the one thing that stood out most. He will also have to continue to get stronger. While his strength was in no way a weakness in college, the NFL is another level. Whether it's getting off the press, making a contested catch or blocking, he is going to be taking on stronger competition. His power is one of his most defining traits, and improving it will help keep it that way as a professional. Outside of that, there could be concern that he was only an impact player for a year at Iowa, but considering he was so involved with both the pass and run, I wouldn't lose sleep over it.
Hockenson was never a captain at Iowa but it should say a lot about his work ethic that he was able to emerge with a player like Fant already on the roster. Fant entered the season with high expectations from many, including those inside the program at Iowa. It isn't always easy going into a season knowing another player at the same position is the focus of attention, but it speaks to Hockenson's work ethic and confidence that he was able to have the season he did in 2018.
While Hockenson isn't the most gifted receiving tight end in this class, he is the most complete and a strong candidate to go in the first round. There are still plenty of teams that value balance in their offense in the NFL, and many of those teams do so by using two-tight end sets. Getting a "move" tight end is much easier considering the number of college systems that use tight ends more as wide receivers, but finding that inline player is much more difficult. He can be a factor on every play in the offensive playbook, and that means value. That could see Hockenson drafted even higher, and some even think the top 10 is a possibility.
NFL player Comparison
Let me start by saying I am not comparing him to Rob Gronkowski, but there are certainly similarities. Hockenson is a physically imposing player that can make catches with a defender draped over him, and adding more strength will only enhance that. He is also a physical blocker, and that combination in the red zone should make him a nightmare for defenses, similar to what Gronkowski has been in his career. Still, Gronkowski is a future-Hall of Famer that scored 80 touchdowns in 115 career games, and an additional 12 in 14 playoff games. That's not the kind of player you compare any college athlete to, not matter the similarities. Instead, I am going to go with Hunter Henry. He is another physically imposing tight end that can be just as important in the run game as he can catching passes. Hockenson may be a little bit better athlete than Henry but I think Henry is a little bigger. Like Henry, Hockenson played college football as a more traditional tight end in a balanced system, and was also a Mackey Award winner. For those that remember Mercedes Lewis, that could be an accurate comparison as well.
- Physically imposing player with great size and power
- Advanced traits as a blocker
- Demonstrates good body control to get separation as a route-runner
- Plays a brand of tight end that is old school, yet still coveted in the NFL
- Terrific ball skills
- Limited experience in college
- While an impressive blocker, there are some inconsistencies that can be cleaned up
- Can still add more strength
|Scouting Video Courtesy of Big Ten Network|