T.J. Hockenson was the eighth overall pick of the Detroit Lions in last spring’s NFL Draft and became the highest drafted tight end since Vernon Davis went sixth overall to the San Francisco 49ers in 2006.
The high hopes for Hockenson to become Matt Patricia’s Detroit version of Rob Gronkowski didn’t completely manifest as a rookie as he was limited to just 12 games played with 32 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns. However, Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez believes Hockenson has the ability to be an All-Pro tight end in the league and wants to help him get to that level.
“He’s off to such a great start,” Gonzalez said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “And like I said, you just got to keep taking it to that next level and you got to keep challenging him. And hopefully I’ll get a chance to talk to him. I talked to all these tight ends, young tight ends in the league, so if you do see him, tell him to reach out to me because to me that’s what separates the good ones from the great ones.
“He’s going to be a good one no matter what. That’s out of the way. It’s like how great do you want to be? And that starts right here and here (in the head and heart). It has nothing to do with what you’re doing on the football field. All that will come, it’s just you got to get your mind and your heart right.”
The invitation is one Hockenson appears completely willing to accept.
Hockenson’s rookie season is actually a near carbon copy statistically to Gonzalez’s rookie year with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1997. Gonzalez had 33 catches for 368 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie season while Hockenson had just one less yard and one less catch than Gonzalez, who played in all 16 games.
“He can be an All-Pro, no doubt about it,” Gonzalez said. “Get him in the right system, he can be an All-Pro.”