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2019 Jaguars NFL Draft Profile: Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson

Zach Goodall

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Oct 13, 2018; Bloomington, IN, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes tight end T.J. Hockenson (38) catches a pass in the end zone for a touchdown against Indiana Hoosiers linebacker Dameon Willis Jr. (43) during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium . Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After months of quarterback scouting that have all become relatively moot, it’s time to start going in-depth at other positions of need for the Jacksonville Jaguars here at Locked On Jaguars.

With quarterback Nick Foles in the fold after signing a four year, $88 million deal with the Jaguars last week, it’s safe to assume quarterback is just about out of the picture for the team’s seventh overall selection in next month’s NFL Draft. Sure, the Jaguars could elect to draft a QB to backup Foles and eventually utilize the two-year “out” to usher in his heir, but that seems highly unlikely at this point. Jacksonville paid Foles to be their franchise quarterback, and they must build around him immediately to get things back on track.

In which case, the Jaguars need to add weapons on offense. During his time in Philadelphia over the past two years, Foles has targeted tight ends on 33% of his 296 passing attempts. It helps that the Eagles had multiple talented TEs on their roster during that time in Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, Brent Celek, and Dallas Goedert, but the Jaguars must attempt to replicate the tight end production Foles had that helped him find so much success.

T.J. Hockenson from the University of Iowa can immediately provide a spark at the tight end position and replicate that formula.

The redshirt sophomore burst onto the scene during the 2018 season, hauling in 49 receptions for 760 yards and six touchdowns in Iowa’s 52.9%-to-47.1% run-to-pass offense. Iowa ran a ton of multiple tight end sets, mainly 12-personnel (1 RB/2 TE), in order to add bodies to the tackle box for the run game and best utilize both Hockenson and fellow Hawkeyes tight end Noah Fant – who, like Hockenson, is a projected first round pick. The two tight ends combined for 88 receptions, 1279 yards, and 13 touchdowns in 2018.

The differences between Hockenson and Fant, which were drawn out well by my friend Ryan Keiran of PatsPulpit.com, are their playstyles at the same general position. Fant is going to be a dynamic receiving tight end on a bit of an NFL learning curve as he is far from a polished blocker, who is best utilized as the new “big-slot” TE that the NFL is beginning to transition towards.

I’ll do a full film review on Fant at another time here at Locked On Jaguars, but my early take is he’s an Evan Engram-style of tight end who would benefit from a pass-happy, vertical offense. Not all of these teams need a tight end, but the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be great fits for Fant who could move him around and play him vertically.

Hockenson is much more universal in terms of scheme fit. He’s athletic enough to play vertically, like Fant, fluid and explosive enough to win in the underneath game, and is the best run-blocking tight end prospect I’ve ever evaluated. And that last nugget is something that will undoubtedly catch the eye of the power-run heavy Jacksonville Jaguars.

Let’s get to the film. Be prepared – there’s really no negative aspects to his game.

FILM ROOM

Blocking prowess

I typically don’t clip up a lot of run blocking plays for film reviews, because you can usually get a good feel for a player’s ability in that aspect from a couple of early-down reps.

But good lord, T.J. Hockenson makes run blocking a sport of it’s own – and he’s a first-team All Pro in it.

Hockenson’s pure strength and explosion into his block is enough to “wow” you from an entertainment perspective, but his technique makes the difference between a “good” block, and the “great” block that leads to him driving the defensive end 10 yards backwards and into the turf. His fluid explosion through contact out of his three point stance creates instant pad-level leverage by getting the DE vertical. Hockenson maintains the lower pad-level and his strong hands stick in the chest frame despite the defender attempting to wiggle himself free like a fish in a fishnet.

You’ll never, ever see Hockenson quit on a block until the whistle is blown. His rep is won by the time the standing EDGE defender crosses the numbers at the top of the field, but Hockenson drives him out of bounds and into the sideline area a yard behind the line of scrimmage. When Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin stated “I suggest we adopt the term ‘grit’ as a way to define ourselves,” at the Jaguars’ State of the Franchise press conference in 2017, plays like this are what he was referring to.

Hockenson plays with grit on every snap.

Hockenson is more than just an in-line blocker. He’s equally as dominant as a space blocker, which will reap benefits for a team that will use him in pass protection vs. loaded boxes and blitz. Diagnose this look as Cover 2-man underneath with the MIKE linebacker responsible for Hockenson (hovering over the left tackle behind the DE). The MIKE reads pass from the QB – the play was a QB draw – and gets his eyes up to Hockenson quickly, but even with eyes on the tight end, the MIKE was unable to stand his ground from the bulldozer of a blocking tight end and eats dirt. It’s the same thing over and over again, whether it’s in-line or out in space – Hockenson wins with a fantastic combination of athleticism and technique which cements his high floor as a blocker at the NFL level.

Hockenson’s technique becomes important when taking on rush and disengaging moves from opposing rushers and defenders. Hockenson wins with initial leverage and hand placement, but the defender gets an arm free to attempt top rip out Hockenson’s arms. But with the lower pad level, Hockenson can get his disengaged arm back up-and-under through the rip and back into the defenders chest, and turn him 180 degrees away from the play.

The next six clips will be the last of Hockenson’s blocking breakdown before moving to his receiving ability, all displaying his ability to seal-block on designed runs and backfield throws to completely open up the field. This obviously requires the previously stated technique and strength through blocks, but the processing speed to diagnose his responsibilities and time his blocks, as a lead-block from H-back/fullback, in-line, and out in space. He can do it all.

Simply put: Enjoy.

Receiving ability

You’ve probably had a lot of fun watching T.J. Hockenson, the blocker, so far… (or maybe not, and maybe I’m just a football nerd).

But I promise you, that’s not all the Iowa product has to offer. The Jaguars prioritize the ability to run block in their tight ends, but in today’s NFL, tight ends need to contribute significantly as receiving threats in order to be considered dynamic.

Hockenson hasn’t mastered all nine routes of the route tree, but he’s proven he can win multiple routes in all three levels of the playing field. His athletic testing results (see below) also offer promise that Hockenson can develop on just about any route there is, too. It’s not that Hockenson struggled with certain routes – he just wasn’t asked to run them in Iowa’s run-heavy offense.

His high-pointing ability wasn’t often utilized at Iowa given their run-heavy philosophy, but the talent, size, and technique is there for Hockenson to be the redzone threat the Jaguars have desperately been searching for.

Hockenson squeezes through a tight, two-defender gap on an outside release with explosion off the line in order to breeze by the coverage LB and separate despite little field room in the redzone. The QB lofts a ball to the back of the endzone, and Hockenson’s mix of technique and athleticim finishes the rep. He identifies the ball and times his full-body extension at the top of his vertical jump in order to get both hands on this ball and bring it  down in bounds without ever letting the closing defender have a chance to make a recovery play.

In order to win in contested areas such as the redzone, fighting through contact and adjusting to throws is as important as anything. Being nearly 6-5 with a 90th percentile vertical jump (see his athletic profile later in the report) is obviously a benefit in this category, but Hockenson has the natural ability to fight for and win contested throws across the field.

Hockenson releases inside to draw the linebacker off of the seam that he intends to get vertical before breaking into a post on a deep mesh concept to keep the safety modest. This is a well-run, pro-style yet schemed-open route that Hockenson can win on at the next level, but the play turns into a YOLO-pass. The QB scrambles left with pressure closing in, and lets this ball rip back towards the middle of the field where Hockenson is playing the scramble drill back towards the left side of the field. He tracks this underthrown ball while navigating back to the side he came from, fights through contact and comes down with a huge gain on what was on pace to become a 4th-and-long punt.

If the Jaguars intend on running the similar, if not the same, passing concepts with Foles in the fold, then plays like this are important in Hockenson’s evaluation – winning in the short-to-intermediate levels of the passing field. Otherwise known as the routes that make a West Coast offense operate.

Hockenson possesses the explosion off the line and agility to maintain speed through his turns in the route to operate in a timing-based passing offense which can be seen in the fluidity of his release from the slot anf through the deep crossing route – a staple of Jacksonville’s offense over the past two years. And with clean footowork, Hockenson cleanly separates with hip fluidity and no wasted movement as soon as the defender begins to pedal vertically again. So long as the QB leads this ball (after years of watching a QB fail to do so, it’ll be a sigh of relief to see that from Foles), this is a yards-after-catch route that Hockenson would wreak havoc with in the Jaguars’ WCO-offense.

Did someone mention yards after the catch?

Hockenson does a great job at keeping his feet underneath him through vertical route breaks, with no wasted movement whatsoever in order to maintain a comfy cushion from the coverage defender. And once again, this is a timing route based off of play action with a relatively immediate release at the top of the route.

And your arm tackles will do nothing to slow down the Hock. He’s a yards after catch and yards through contact machine.

This rep was just disrespectful, and provides another feel for how Hockenson can transcend the offense beyond WCO concepts and integrate some vertical philosophies.

Hockenson lines up in-line in 23 personnel (2 RB/3 TE) – this looks like it’ll be a run play or short-field pass off play-action to get an easy 3rd and 1 conversion, right?

Wrong.

The outside TEs in Hockenson (to the weak side of the formation) and Fant (strong-side – safety help follows) run a Yankee concept that acts like a deep mesh pattern between the most outside players in the formation, getting vertical up the seam and crossing. With the one-on-one matchup and a rub to benefit from, Hockenson gets wide open and the safety tries to recover as the top of the defense is exposed at the rub.

What makes this rep so disrespectful? Watch the second half of the clip. Hockenson wins route-running leverage vs. his man coverage defender by running an inside release. With so many defenders in the box that make an inside release difficult to manuever, Hockenson literally pulls a swim move on the play-action-biting stack linebacker (#14) and breezes to the middle of the field, easily separating from the man-cover #25.

To begin this crucial 4th and 8 rep, with under a minute left in the game tied 28-28, it’s obviously clutch of Hockenson to make a backside sliding catch to get both across the line-to-gain and into field goal range. That’s just a given.

But his explosion off the line of scrimmage is real. Sure, he plays the line at the snap compared to the top outside WR, but to be three yards removed vertically post-snap before the shorter-build, assumptively quicker and nimbler even crosses the line is impressive for any tight end. And Hockenson matches his LOS burst with a fluid hip-turn at the top of this curl to ensure separation from a breaking safety on the most important play of the game up until this point. The QB getting the ball out late eliminates some of that separation, but Hockenson held up to his end of the deal with ease.

Athletic profile (via MockDraftable.com)

Hockenson offers typical height for the tight end position, but based on his NFL Combine testing, he comes in slightly underweight and with below-average length compared to the average NFL TE.

As mentioned while describing his redzone touchdown catch above, however, Hockenson has legitimate athleticism to cover for his lack of elite size at the position. His vertical (37 1/2″) and broad (123″) rank in the 90th and 91st percentiles among NFL TEs in MockDraftable’s database that has collected testing numbers dating back to the 1999 NFL Draft class.

His top speed comes in above average as well, as he recorded a 4.7s 40 yard dash (68th percentile). This is a huge benefit for any team looking to add some vertical field stretching via Hockenson, and if Jacksonville wants to catch teams off guard beyond their traditional WCO passing concepts, Hockensons’s skillset + measurables give them that flexibility.

Last but not least, Hockenson’s 77th percentile, 7.02s 3 cone drill is a cherry on top. A widely praised drill for testing a players ability to change direction, the Jaguars brass is likely salivating at this number. As mentioned previously, Jacksonville’s WCO concepts require short-field route running and the ability to create YAC in a timing-based play. These factors require twitch and quickness from a change-of-direction standpoint. Hockenson’s 3-cone drill proves one thing: He’s anything but stiff, and at bare minimum he can fit the Jaguars current mold as a receiving TE.

What’s nice is that’s just his floor, and his ceiling can provide so, so much more.

Conclusion

Listen, I understand that selecting a tight end in the top 10 is pretty uncommon, but it isn’t unheard of. Eric Ebron (10th overall, 2014), Vernon Davis (6th overall, 2006), Kellen Winslow Jr. (6th overall, 2004) are the most recent to be selected that high.

Winslow Jr. suffered two early setbacks with a broken leg two games into his rookie season and a torn ACL knocking him out of his second season, but currently ranks 31st all-time in receiving yards among TEs. Assuming he met his career average 650 yards per season in those nearly two fully missed seasons, Winslow would rank 13th all-time in the same category. He was worth the selection in hindsight.

Davis, who is still active today and plays for the Washington Redskins (he played his first 9 1/2 seasons with the San Francisco) currently ranks 9th in all time receiving yards among TEs with 7439. He was worth the selection in hindsight.

Ebron… is a bit of a different story. He’s entering his sixth season in the NFL and looked like a bust with the Detroit Lions, recording 186 catches for 2070 yards and 11 touchdowns in four years there. However, Ebron signed with the Indianapolis Colts this past season, and tore his bust label to shreds. He more than doubled his career touchdowns with 13 alone in 2018, along with 66 receptions for 750 yards – both career highs. The jury is not out on whether or not Ebron’s ability and skillset were worth his selection.

Forget what I said in the introduction about run-blocking: T.J. Hockenson is the best tight end prospect I’ve ever evaluated, period. He’s also the safest offensive player in this draft, and considering the traditional NFL learning curve at the tight end, it’s really rare to ever hear that label being thrown around at the position.

His combination of poise as a blocker in all facets as well as extremely high floor in the pass game for an offense stylized like Jacksonville’s absolutely makes him worth their 7th overall pick, and the Jaguars’ dire need of a tight end right now only further solidifies that.

Quarterback Nick Foles will need as many weapons as he can get here in Jacksonville to get this Jaguars team steered straight. Considering his success in Philadelphia with tight ends, it’s incredibly difficult to assume T.J. Hockenson wouldn’t be one of Foles’ most trusted receiving targets, and as a whole Jacksonville’s most important non-QB offensive player given his immense skill-set as a contributor to the run and the pass game.

Zach Goodall covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for the Locked On Jaguars podcast and website. Follow him on Twitter @zach_goodall.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

NFLPA seemingly responds to Jaguars, Coughlin about the word ‘voluntary’

Demetrius Harvey

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May 26, 2017; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin (center) looks on during organized team activities at Everbank Field. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars today issued their annual state of the franchise address to fans and media alike. During the press conference, Tom Coughlin addressed the audience regarding the status of the football team. During his speech, Coughlin spoke about the player’s attendance to voluntary offseason workouts which began on Monday. Only two players were missing from the workouts — Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith –, and Coughlin’s message was clear when he stated: “We’re very close to 100 percent attendance – and quite frankly, all our players should be here.”

One statement which stood out by Coughlin was made directly afterward “Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish and insensitive to the real values of the team. The hard work that many try to avoid is the major building block for the development of an outstanding football team.” This statement creates a sort of cloudy vision of what exactly voluntary means which is why the NFLPA decided to issue their own statement on what voluntary means to them:

Listen. Everyone would love if the Jaguars had 100% attendance at these sort of voluntary workouts. There is no doubt that great strides can be made in all facets of the offseason, however, there is a reason why these workouts have been made voluntary. NFL players have been overworked, and collectively bargained with the NFL in an effort to limit the workload over the offseason in order to produce a better product on the field in the fall.

Whether or not Jalen Ramsey or Telvin Smith show up for the few-week period of voluntary workouts should have no impact. Both athletes have proven themselves over the years plenty of times. Jalen Ramsey works out with his father in Tennesee every offseason. This has no changed, nor do I expect it to anytime soon.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars official 2019 NFL Schedule revealed

Demetrius Harvey

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Dec 31, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Fireworks are shot over the stadium after game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the North Carolina State Wolfpack at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has released all 32 teams’ schedules ahead of the 2019 NFL season. We can finally get a closer look at when the Jaguars will play each opponent. The Jaguars have one prime time game this upcoming season on  Thursday Night Football at home against the Titans (week 3). The Jaguars open up against the Kansas City Chiefs at home. The Jaguars lost to the Chiefs last season 30-14.

Earlier today the Jaguars announced they will be playing in London on November 2nd against the Houston Texans. Last season the Jaguars played in London on October 28th.

As for the Jaguars bye week, it will once again come directly after the Jaguars London journey which is to be expected as they have had a similar schedule the past two seasons. The bye week will occur during week 10 after their matchup against the Texans in London.

The Jaguars will be closing out the season at home for the first time since 2011. They play the Indianapolis Colts.

Jaguars 2019 NFL Schedule:

Week 1: vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, September 8

Week 2: @ Houston Texans, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, September 15

Week 3: vs. Tennessee Titans, 8:20 p.m., NFL Network, Thursday, September 19

Week 4: @ Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m., CBS, Sunday, September 29

Week 5: @ Carolina Panthers, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, October 6

Week 6: vs. New Orleans Saints, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, October 13

Week 7: @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, October 20

Week 8: vs. New York Jets, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, October 27

Week 9: vs. Houston Texans (London), 9:30 a.m., NFL Network, Sunday, November 3

Week 10: BYE

Week 11: @ Indianapolis Colts, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, November 17

Week 12: @ Tennessee Titans, 4:05 p.m., CBS, Sunday, November 24

Week 13: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m., FOX, Sunday, December 1

Week 14: vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m., FOX, Sunday, December 8

Week 15: @ Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m., CBS, Sunday, December 15

Week 16: @ Atlanta Falcons, 1:00 p.m., FOX, Sunday, December 22

Week 17: vs. Indianapolis Colts, 1:00 p.m., CBS, Sunday, December 29

*All times are in EST

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Jacksonville Jaguars

REPORT: Jaguars claim former Cowboys guard Parker Ehinger

Zach Goodall

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Credit: DallasCowboys.com

According to Field Yates of ESPN, the Jacksonville Jaguars have added former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Parker Ehinger off of waivers.

Ehinger spent the 2018 season with the Cowboys following two with the Kansas City Chiefs. The former 4th round pick in 2016 was traded to Dallas last preseason, but spent the majority of the season on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in practice. He also tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus as a rookie in 2016.

The 6-6, 310 lb guard has played in six career games, starting in five.

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