T.J. Hockenson works for Detroit Lions. But defense would have been nice

Jeff Seidel
Detroit Free Press
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And with the eighth pick in the NFL draft, the Detroit Lions take…

“NO!!!” screamed fans on Twitter, who had seen the news before it was announced on TV, that the Lions selected T.J. Hockenson, a tight end from Iowa.

“NO!!!!” screamed fans in bars, which was captured on video and shared on social media.

"Boo!!" screamed a group of fans during a live broadcast on WXYZ-TV, from the team's headquarters.

Welcome to Detroit, T.J.

It’s nothing personal.

T.J. Hockenson stands with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, after he was taken eighth overall pick by the Lions in the NFL draft in downtown Nashville, Tenn.

You just have to understand that many Lions fans are still suffering from Eric Ebron trauma, a condition sparked by watching a highly drafted tight end drop passes.

Many fans were hoping the team would take a defensive player for a change. (The Lions have now taken an offensive player in five of the last six drafts.)

Others were hoping for Ed Oliver, a defensive lineman from Houston, who was still available and taken by the Buffalo Bills with the ninth pick.

Others were hoping for Michigan’s Devin Bush, who was taken at No. 10 by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But still, there are plenty of arguments to take Hockenson.

Reason to take him: The Lions absolutely need a tight end. It’s one of the team’s biggest needs. And he is unquestionably the best tight end in this draft.

Reason not to take him: You don’t take a tight end that high! He is just the fourth tight end chosen in the top 10 since 1997. And now, two of them have been by the Lions.

Reason to take him: He makes the Lions' running game stronger. He is a great blocker, and he gives Matthew Stafford another target.  With one player, the Lions just improved their offense. He is described as being tough and a great locker-room guy.

Reason some scream: Eric Ebron! The version who played for the Lions, not Indy.

Reason to take him: He is not Eric Ebron. You have to remember that. He will start from Day 1. He will contribute. And he could be a fantastic pick.

Reason some scream: Aaron Donald! The Lions passed on Donald and took Ebron!  And now they took Hockenson over Oliver, who has been compared to Donald!

Reason not to take him: The Lions had plenty of other options. They need playmakers on defense. They need a corner. They need a guard. They need a wide receiver.

Reason to take him: You can get a guard later. There weren’t any corners worth taking that high. And you don’t take a guard this high. You can find one in the second or third round. He helps the running game. He helps Stafford. He helps the passing game. He helps the entire offense.

And ultimately, that’s why I understand the pick.

But don’t love it. Not for a tight end that high.

I thought they needed to pick a defensive player. 

They need defensive playmakers.

But I understand it.

He fits what the Lions want to do on offense.

“I played at the University of Wisconsin,” Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said, at a predraft party. “Blue-collar. Hard-nosed. Running the football is definitely a part of what we want to do. I feel like you are exerting your will on the opponent when we can do that. Then, it gives you opportunities for big explosive plays down the field.”

And that’s what Hockenson does.

He will help this team impose its will.

And he will help the passing game.

“He’s smart, tough, works hard, gives everything every single play," Lions coach Matt Patricia said at the Lions party in Allen Park. "He can do the dirty work in the run game, get open in the passing game."

And he is a terrific blocker.

“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’t see him anymore,” Patricia said. “He’s dumping him on the bench.”

Still, it felt like a disappointment for many Lions fans, and that’s an understatement. Because of how the draft played out.

The draft started as expected, when Arizona took Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray at No. 1 and the San Francisco 49ers took Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa at No. 2.

But everything was reshuffled when the Oakland Raiders blew apart every mock draft and took Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell with the fourth pick. (Some had him closer to the 20th pick.)

T.J. Hockenson after being selected by the Lions.

Combine that with the New York Giants taking Duke quarterback Daniel Jones at No. 6 — in another head-scratcher — and the stars seemed to be aligned for the Lions to take one of the top defensive players available.

Maybe they would have taken Josh Allen, the outside linebacker from Kentucky, had he not been chosen by the Jaguars at No. 7. (The Jags reportedly had their eyes set on Hockenson before Allen fell to them). 

Or, maybe the Lions would have traded down if Hockenson wasn't available.

In the end, the Lions took their tight end. They filled a need. They got the best tight end in the draft. They improved their offense, both the running game and the passing game.

Still, many fans were furious, thinking about Ebron and what could have been with Aaron Donald, now one of the premier players in the NFL.

And while that comparison is not fair to Hockenson, it is evidence of something else: this entire area is still suffering from the effects of Eric Ebron.

Contact Jeff Seidel: Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to



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