Don't let the past scare you: Detroit Lions made right call drafting T.J. Hockenson
They had to do it. Had to take the player they thought would help them win now.
This is what you wanted, right? For the Detroit Lions to take the best player available in Thursday night’s NFL draft?
Well, they just did.
Hello, Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson.
Welcome to Eric Ebron’s shadow. And maybe Ed Oliver’s, especially if Oliver becomes the next Aaron Donald.
You remember Donald, right? The defensive lineman taken three spots after the Lions selected Ebron with the 10th pick in the 2014 draft?
I know that’s what you’re thinking. But don’t. Because Oliver – a highly regarded defensive tackle who went No. 9 to Buffalo – isn't Donald.
Just as Hockenson isn’t Ebron.
He's better. More complete. Ready to help in September.
Yeah, you’ve heard all that before. Probably heard it all your life. You’re a Lions fan.
And, yeah, Hockenson is a tight end, and just the fourth one since 1997 a team to be taken in the top 10.
So why is Hockenson different?
Because he played basketball in high school. He even made the all-state team. Which means he has balance and hands and vision.
Also, because he enjoys laying into linebackers and defensive ends. In other words: he’s tough.
More:Lions get C-minus for drafting Iowa's T.J. Hockenson. Here's why
Like Bob Quinn’s first-round pick from a year ago – Frank Ragnow. A lot of folks didn’t much like that pick, either.
Then Ragnow took the field. Showed some nasty and a potential Pro-Bowl future.
Now, I have no idea if Hockenson will show the same promise next fall. He could show nothing. Though I doubt it. Too many NFL folks love him.
And while he fit the "best player available" category for the Lions, he also fits a need. Short of running fly routes à la Rob Gronkowski, Hockenson does everything well.
He should give Stafford a sturdy check-down option on passing downs, and another target in the red zone. He should give the running game more flexibility and brute strength, qualities favored by the team’s new offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell.
He should give the team a playmaker. Maybe not a flashy one. But an efficient one.
So, give him a chance. Even if you don’t want to give the Lions a chance. Even if you can only think of Ebron. And how he couldn’t catch a pass until he left for Indianapolis.
And, remember, just because the Lions blew it with Ebron doesn’t mean they did with Hockenson. Think of Mike Williams.
Not that you want to. Not that you remember who he is.
Again, I’m here to help:
The Lions took Williams, a 6-5 receiver, with the No. 10 pick in the 2005 draft. This came after taking receiver Charles Rogers with the No. 2 pick in 2003 and receiver Roy Williams with the No. 7 pick in 2004.
None of those receivers worked out.
And yet, in 2007, when Millen had the No. 2 pick in the draft and was facing the failure of drafting three receivers in the first round, he chose Calvin Johnson.
That worked out.
That isn’t to say Hockenson is Johnson. He’s not. He’s a tight end, remember?
But he is not Ebron, either. And Ebron’s struggles here are not enough of a reason to pass on the player you think can help you win.
As Quinn said last week, when asked about the possibility of taking a tight end:
“In all due respect to the fans out there, I can’t take the fan sentiment in to who I draft and who I sign for this team,” he said. “I wasn’t the person who drafted Eric, so I think it’s a completely different — two different conversations.”
Well, now he’s the person who drafted Hockenson.
And as long as he produces in the way Quinn thinks he can, and as long as Oliver doesn’t morph into the next superstar defensive lineman, everything should be fine, and he’ll outrun that shadow in no time.
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