ALL PARK – With the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft, the Detroit Lions select T.J. Hoc –
Roger Goodell's mouth before Detroit Lions' fans started killing the pick.
Nooooooooooo! What? No !!
This was not bar, mind you. This is not a watch party at your friend's crib. This was the watch party hosted by the Lions at their own practice facility on Thursday night. And while there was certainly applause too, maybe even more than the groans, there were certainly groans.
Of course, the mixed reaction to the Hockenson pick is not exactly a surprise. Brandon Pettigrew in 2009, and another on Eric Ebron in 201
Every year, Ebron was getting. He would tear up the practice field in training camp. The hype would build. And then the season would start, and he just struggled to put it all together. He was not reliable, did not score enough, dropped too many passes, could not block his way out of a paper bag.
Last year, the Lions cut him.
This year, they went out and spent another top-10 pick to replace him? When nobody else has picked a tight end that early since 2006? Really?
Really. And it makes a lot of sense.
We might as well start right here: T.J. Hockenson is not Eric Ebron. Repeat after me: T.J. Hockenson is not Eric Ebron.
Ebron drops too many passes at North Carolina. Hockenson drops one of his 64 targets last season. One. And it's not like he was doing it in space either. Watch his film, and you'll see a guy who's counted on more than anyone else to bail out that's open in difficult situations, on thirds downs and in the red zone. Those are tough plays in tight spaces – yet Hockenson caught 49 passes. He had a team-high 760 yards and scored six touchdowns. And he just dropped one of those passes – and two for his career.
"Really natural catcher," general manager Bob Quinn said. "Really smooth with the way to make his body in a good position to make those tough catches. Obviously, excellent hands. (It's) It's really easy to him. I think he's just got really good top-of-the-route technique, that's with his feet to get some separation, but so he can subtly really use his body needs. "
This guy is sure-handed. Ebron was not that.
And none of this is for the blocking, which was never Ebron's cup. Hockenson, meantime, just might be the best blocking tight end in his class. Kerryon Johnson.
"There's a lot of plays on tape where you're watching this guy, and he's blocking somebody, and all of a sudden you can 'Pat them on the tape because he's got his guy on the bench and dumps him on the bench,' coach Matt Patricia told fans at that party in Allen Park. "Just a tenacious guy, a tough guy, and a blue-collar hard-worker. And that's really what we're all about. "
Culture has taken a long time, and with good reason. Patricia tries to import the Patriot Way last year, but what about pushing back in the locker room. That caused a lot of problems, especially early, and there's no question it contributed to the slow start. So the Lions have prioritized guys they would know, and continue to purge the old guard. They just signed, guys like Trey Flowers and Justin Coleman and Danny Amendola.
"It's a tough league, and in order to be successful, you've got to be tough," said Flowers. "It can not be comfortable."
bron Eon Eon Eon Eon Eon Eon Eon Eon Eon Eon Eon E That E That E That That That That That But Hockenson, by all accounts, has it. The Lions do not just have to talk to him, they talk to him, Kirk Ferentz built a system on the Patriot Way, and Hockenson – a former walk-on who is turned into a do-everything All-American who just won the Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end – embodies all of it.
See the connection "See why this makes sense?"
"I think he's the safest player in the draft," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said "I ranked him and I ranked him, I did him the day after watching Rob Gronkowski live in person in the playoff game against the Ch Argers, and I saw Gronk completely dominate a football game without really having to catch the ball. Hey what just so dominant in the run game.
"Then I flip on this kid, and he's not tall as Gronk, and I do not compare any body to Gronk – he's on a whole different level in terms of what he can do – but I saw this kid with that same temperament and nastiness in the run and controlling the run game, and then he does nothing but get open and catch everything they throw to him.
What Hockenson the right pick over Ed Oliver? Over Brian Burns? Over Rashan Gary? Over any of the 15 front seven players who were taken in the first round, a modern draft record? Who knows. The Lions could have been on the side of the ball too, and it's easy to understand the public thirst for it.
Ebron and Golden Tate last year. The lack of skill players was unmistakable, and Matthew Stafford suffered for it. There could not have been a tight tight rotation in the league. In an era when tight end play is more important than ever, that hurt.
Jesse James helps. Now does T.J. Hockenson. And if the Lions are right about him, they have a chance to turn their greatest weakness into an awesome hurry.
"He's not gonna be scared (about the comparisons to Ebron)," Quinn said. "I know that."