Fantasy football owners with T.J. Hockenson on their team must be feeling as great as the Lions tight end.
Hockenson, a second-year tight end who impressed as a rookie, spent the summer recovering from both an ankle problem and COVID-19. The former Iowa star tight end figured to be a crucial target for Matthew Stafford once he returned to the field.
That time is now. Days before the Detroit Lions opened the 2020 season, Hockenson made it clear he’s feeling much better. But will that be enough for him to contribute?
T.J. Hockenson had a mixed rookie year
With Matthew Stafford getting older and Lions coach Matt Patricia having seen the value of an elite tight end in New England, it made sense Detroit selected Hockenson in the 2019 NFL draft.
Whether or not Hockenson should have been selected eighth overall is another conversation, although he did win the John Mackey Award in his last season at Iowa.
That honor, given to him after a 46-catch, 717-yard, six-touchdown season in 2018, goes to the best tight end in college football.
Hockenson didn’t need long to defend the Lions taking him that early. In his first game, Hockenson’s 131 receiving yards were the most by any tight end in his NFL debut.
Unfortunately for the Lions, they allowed Kyler Murray and the Cardinals to rally and end the game in a 27-27 tie. And unfortunately for Hockenson, that was the last real highlight of his rookie year.
Hockenson didn’t have a bad rookie season. He finished with 32 catches, 367 yards, and two touchdowns in 12 games, seven of which he started. But a concussion, and then an ankle injury, kept him from dominating defenses the way he and the Lions intended.
Hockenson had an ankle problem, then caught COVID-19
T.J. Hockenson missed the final month of his rookie season with an ankle injury. The ailment was still bothering him midway through August of this year.
In July, Hockenson tested positive for COVID-19. Although he was asymptomatic, Hockenson had to sit out 10 days.
Lions teammate Kenny Golladay also tested positive for COVID-19. Galloday said he felt symptoms, including a fever that lasted multiple days, but returned to the team after a week.
Neither Golladay nor Hockenson opted out of the 2020 season.
Hockenson said he is ‘100 percent’ recovered from both issues
As Detroit’s season opener against Mitchell Trubisky and the rival Chicago Bears inched closer, there were some external concerns Hockenson could sit.
Hockenson erased those doubts when he met with reporters on Thursday, September 10. Asked about his health, Hockenson said “it’s 100%,” and he was excited for the season ahead.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Hockenson admitted he viewed his rookie season as inconsistent. The idea of receiving more targets, as Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said he wants to happen with Lions tight ends, has Hockenson prepared to move on from last year.
“It’s a cool aspect (that he said that, but) we still need to do our job. They can try to get us the ball as much as we want, but we still got to get open.”
Hockenson caught nine passes for 65 yards in two games against the Bears last year. A strong outing against the Bears in the opener would greatly help the Lions’ chances of starting 1-0.