The Buffalo Bills have a need at tight end entering the 2019 NFL Draft. Luckily for them, they should have the opportunity to pick T.J. Hockenson, an all-around tight end capable of doing it all from the tight end position (and H-back, and split out wide).
With his versatility, Hockenson will match up with every team, but let’s take a closer look at what general manager Brandon Beane, head coach Sean McDermott, and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll have done at the tight end position over the last few years.
Hockenson grew up in a small Iowa town south of Des Moines and seems made to pair with the Bills’ decision makers for multiple reasons. As a redshirt sophomore and 21-years of age, he still has room to grow into his frame, but he already fits the mold of what they have looked for in the past at the position.
For years, McDermott and Beane worked with all-around tight end Greg Olsen with the Carolina Panthers. Olsen and Hockenson are nearly identical in terms of measurements:
6’5”, 251 pounds with 32 1⁄4-inch arms
6’5”, 255 pounds, 32 1⁄2-inch arms
That’s not where the similarities end. Both are solid blocking in-line in addition to going out in pass routes. During McDermott and Beane’s final three years in Carolina, Olsen became the first tight end in NFL history with three straight 1000-yard seasons, catching 241 passes and scoring 16 touchdowns over that span. They also had a top-ten rushing offense during that time, topping out at second in the league in 2015, with a big-armed quarterback who was a threat to run the ball.
Looking at offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, he’s had successful tight ends at every stop. As tight ends coach for the New England Patriots from 2014-2016, he was the position coach for Rob Gronkowski, who was capable of blocking but wasn’t always all-in. Before that, Tony Moeaki (2012 Kansas City Chiefs OC) and Anthony Fasano (2011 Miami Dolphins OC) were mostly pass catchers instead of the all-around threat Hockenson provides.
Comparing Hockenson to Charles Clay, a tight end signed by the previous coaching and general manager regime, also provides a good athletic and measurement comparison. At 6’3” and 245 lbs, with 33-inch arms as measured at the Combine, Clay grew into his frame a bit, adding ten pounds during his NFL career.
Sample play: Ace Slot YAC 136 Power Flood
By Dan Lavoie
This play-action pass takes advantage of Buffalo’s speedy receivers and T.J. Hockenson’s dual-threat nature. Hockenson motioning across the line and the guard pulling after the snap are designed to fake a Power run play to the right, bringing the linebackers closer. Hockenson releases after his motion, though, running a corner route while slot receiver Zay Jones runs across the formation and John Brown clears space on the right side of the formation. Finding space in front of the safety, Hockenson can catch the pass and rumble for extra yardage.
Hockenson is marked here in his college number 38.
Here’s a look at something similar in practice:
If your tight end isn’t a great blocker, the strong safety might sit back and let the linebackers attack the running play. If you have a strong running game and great blocking from your tight end, they’d need to respect it more.