TJ Hockenson 2021 Fantasy Outlook: Primed to Join Elite Fantasy TEs - Roto Street Journal
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TJ Hockenson 2021 Fantasy Outlook: Primed to Join Elite Fantasy TEs

Fantasy owners know the sad TE landscape by now: a few kings, surrounded by peasants.  This was even more dramatic in 2020, with the Top-2 (Kelce & Waller) outscoring the next closest (Tonyan, lol) by over 100 FPs.

Fortunately, TJ Hockenson may join the rare TE royalty in 2021 due to a mass target exodus in Detroit. At a minimum, he could become a genuine lord.

Let’s dive into Hockenson’s updated 2021 fantasy outlook.

TJ Hockenson Could be a Target Hog

The Lions vacated the most targets (334) and target share (59.5%) in the league by a whopping 73 looks and 11.6%. At WR, newly-acquired Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams, who didn’t play in 2020, pair with returnees Quintez Cephus and Kalif Raymond to top the depth chart. Perhaps the worst WR corps in the NFL.

In short: nothing stands between Hockenson and 140+ looks (even if D’Andre Swift dominates as a “three down back.”) His 101 targets already ranked fifth among TEs, and this was with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones around.

Let’s project Hockenson for just a modest bump to 8 targets per game, 128 for the year. Here are Hockenson’s splits when seeing 8+ looks:

244 FPs would’ve had Hockenson right on Waller’s heels, and certainly head-and-shoulders above the rest of the TE horror show.

Even when Detroit adds a first-round pass-catcher, Hockenson should see all the volume – the lifeblood of fantasy success — that he can handle.

But is TJ Hockenson Worthy of this Target Shower?

Granted, Kelce and Waller are absolute freaks, capable of shouldering an entire passing game. Hockenson has yet to prove he has this elite ability, although the measurables suggest it’s within him, via PlayerProfiler:

He stands an opposing 6’5″ and 251, yet ranks 74th percentile for 40-yard, 77th for Speed, 88th for Agility, 90th for Burst, and 92nd for Catch Radius. Plus, with high College Dominator and YPR ranks, Hockenson’s proven to be an Alpha before.

Oh, do you notice his best comparable? Yeah, Travis Kelce. 

Hockenson was labeled one of the most complete TE-prospects to enter the NFL in the last decade for a reason. Though he hasn’t hit his ceiling, Hockenson’s flashed plenty of ability both after the catch (4th in YAC) and at the point of attack.

In short, Hockenson has the build, athleticism, and track record to enter the NFL’s elite.

Lions New Coaching Staff + Jared Goff = TE-Friendly

Beyond the enormous opportunity and ability, Hockenson should also benefit from Detroit’s new offense.

New HC Dan Campbell,  a former NFL tight end himself, hails from a Saints team that loved stretching the seams and feeding Red Zone looks to the position. In fact, he called TE a “big skill” when discussing how the position evolved, and how the Saints used Jared Cook:

“If you look at what we did with Jared Cook last year (in New Orleans), he really didn’t have his hand in the ground very much at all. He was used more as a slot, and then we’d split him out, getting him isolated, see if they’d play man-to-man  So, when you have a guy like that.. these guys can be used a little bit more like receivers if you will… and I think it’s a hard matchup for defenses.”

Additionally, new OC Anthony Lynn, who had past success with Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry, thinks he can help Hockenson take a third-year leap:

“T.J. did some nice things last year and I think his ceiling is even higher,” Lynn said. “I know he made the Pro Bowl and all that, but he can play even better and that was the encouraging part. I like what I saw on tape…It creates a very unique matchup because you have linebackers and safeties covering that guy and if he’s a stud, it’s going to be a long day for you.”

Neither coach seems opposed to crafting a pass-game with a TE as the focal point. As mentioned, they might not have a choice. Expect a workman, run-heavy offense that blasts Hockenson off play-action.

Granted, no one can consider Jared Goff an upgrade over the departing Matthew Stafford. Still, Goff targeted TEs at a solid clip, with 126 targets last year (12th most) and 156 in 2019 (4th). Hockenson presents a marked upgrade over both Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett, as well as the Lions’ only show in town after they cut Jesse James.

As the offense stands, Williams and Perriman represent downfield assets. Hockenson can and should be a tentative Goff’s primary underneath weapon, alongside Swift.

Hockenson had seven games with at least five catches last season. He also had two games with 10 or more targets. There is a chance that Hockenson could have more outings like that under Lynn.

Goff’s history with tight ends — he’s completed 316 passes to tight ends in his career, including 194 of them over the past two seasons

At a late-blooming position, Hockenson’s already started to blossom. He has similar measurables to the position’s elite, and will now have the available volume and scheme to allow it to flourish. He’s up to my TE4 (49 OVR), in Tier 3 alongside Mark Andrews just below the Kittle-Waller pairing. Landing a pair of RBs and WRs and then securing Hockenson would be a dream start to 2021 fantasy drafts.

Check out The Wolf’s latest 2021 Fantasy Football Big Board & Rankings to see where all these players and more fall after 2021 NFL Free Agency!

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  • Founder of Roto Street Journal. Lover of workhorse backs, target hog wideouts, and Game of Thrones. Aspiring to be the "Brady" and "Leo" of the fantasy universe.

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