As we get closer and closer to the 2019 NFL Draft, it’s worth looking at a batch of prospects the Buffalo Bills may be picking from in a few weeks. As we approach the big night, we take a look at the background of former Iowa Hawkeyes tight end T.J. Hockenson, expected to be the first tight end selected in the first round.
Another in a long line of tight ends to come out of University of Iowa, Hockenson came out of high school in Chariton, Iowa a three-star recruit as a tight end and defensive end. The young man decided to stay local, and attend school about two hours away from his home town. Deciding to redshirt as a true freshman, Hockenson flashed as soon as he got on the field in 2017, despite being behind future San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle. That season, his five catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns was key in the Hawkeyes eventual upset of Ohio State. In 2018, Hockenson (along with his teammate Noah Fant) was tagged as a breakout candidate and likely John Mackey Award winner given to the nation’s top tight end. He lived up to that hype immediately, by proving to be the safety valve of quarterback Nathan Stanley and coming up huge against Wisconsin, Indiana, and a tough Northwestern defense. It was a bit of a surprise for Hockenson to declare for the draft, as a redshirt sophomore he is still only 21 years old and may still be growing into his frame.
Hockenson’s calling card is his versatility. In an age where college tight ends resemble big receivers more than small offensive lineman, Hockenson is just as likely to block defensive ends as he is to come up with a clutch pass across the middle of the field. Most NFL coaches covet that type of flexibility in their tight ends. Athletically, the former Hawkeye closely resembles another former Iowa player in Dallas Clark, as well as current Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert.
Most draft analysts have the redshirt sophomore pegged as not only a first-round talent, but the first tight end off the board. His refined ability as a blocker combined with his reliability in the red zone and over the middle of the field set him apart from most of the other prospects in the class. As such, Bills fans should expect him to be taken within the first 20 picks of the draft.