The Spotlight Series
A Footballguys Spotlight is an in-depth look at a player. His plusses and minuses are examined, and we give you our bottom-line stance on his 2022 prospects. If a player listed below doesn't yet have a link, don't worry. It's coming soon.
Navigating the fantasy landscape at the tight end position is one of the most challenging tasks for fantasy managers. Last season there were only four tight ends who averaged more than 13 fantasy points per game:
The next twelve tight ends (TE5 through TE16) averaged less than 13 fantasy points per game and were within 1.5 points per game of each other. Beyond the elite, there is no clear positional advantage in drafting a tight end early. The 13-point benchmark makes sense because it’s the baseline value for top-24 fantasy receivers. If you are using a premium pick on a tight end, he needs to outscore the No. 2 receivers you’re passing up in the same ADP tier. Based on his current ADP, T.J. Hockenson finds himself in that dead zone. Hockenson was the TE3 overall through twelve games last season but only averaged 12.1 points. While a career-high, those numbers were inflated by a lack of alternative pass catchers on the roster. He’s currently being drafted at TE7. Based on his career history, he is overvalued.
- There are better options available around his ADP
- The Lions added talent to their offense
- Jared Goff is still the Lions quarterback
There are better options available around his ADP
Every season, Hockenson’s perceived ceiling causes his ADP to rise, and every season Hockenson fails to deliver. This season, he is typically drafted in the sixth or seventh round of 12-team leagues as the No. 7 tight end. Here are some other players going around his ADP that you should be targeting instead:
- Amon-Ra St. Brown
- Allen Robinson
- Chris Godwin
- A.J. Dillon
- Darnell Mooney
- JuJu Smith-Schuster
- Elijah Mitchell
Every one of those players offers more upside than Hockenson. They are either in better offenses or in a better position to earn targets. Many players will outperform their current ADP, giving you a clear positional advantage. By drafting Hockenson, you are essentially capping your team’s ceiling. Hockenson comes into a season where he may not be the first or second option on the roster for the first time in his career, which does not bode well for his fantasy upside.
The Lions added talent to their offense
The Detroit Lions could have the most improved offense in the NFL this season, so Hockenson will be fighting for targets for the first time in his career. Star running back, D'Andre Swift, looks like he is finally healthy and has the potential to be one of the top receiving backs in the league. Swift earned 78 targets in just thirteen games last season and could surpass 100 targets this year. Along with Swift returning from injury, Jamaal Williams remains.
The Lions also made two big splashes in the offseason, adding D.J. Chark Jr in free agency and Jameson Williams in the draft. While Chark has dealt with injuries the past two seasons, he caught 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019. He is a big-play threat and has a knack for finding the endzone. Our current Footballguys projections have Chark catching at least 40 passes this season, which could be conservative. While Chark was a quality free-agent addition, rookie Williams was the real prize of the offseason. In his last season at Alabama, he caught 79 receptions for 1,572 yards and fifteen touchdowns. Unfortunately, Williams tore his ACL in January, which puts his Week 1 status in question. But the coaches are optimistic he’ll make an early-season debut regardless.
While Chark and Williams are much-needed additions, there’s palpable excitement for Amon-Ra St. Brown after his breakout rookie season. St. Brown commanded an astounding 33% target share last season from Weeks 13-18, with ten or more targets in each game. He ranked as a top-5 wide receiver in PPR formats in that timeframe. While his breakout came when both Swift and Hockenson were injured, his excellent play reset expectations for his role in 2022 and beyond. The chemistry he developed with Goff is undeniable, and it's not out of the question St. Brown could lead the team in targets.
All the offensive improvements are a daunting headwind for Hockenson’s fantasy upside. Ideally, fantasy tight ends are positioned as one of the top two targets in their team’s passing offense. Unfortunately for Hockenson, he looks like he will finish outside of that this season. It would also seem that most of the Lions' offensive weapons will eat into each other’s target share, limiting everyone’s ceiling. Hockenson hasn’t proved he can command a top target share in an offense with this many weapons.
Jared Goff is still the Lions' Quarterback
Goff was a below-average starter last season, throwing for just 3,245 yards and nineteen touchdowns and finishing as the No. 24 fantasy quarterback. His average depth of target was 6.8 yards, third-worst among qualified starters. Furthermore, Goff has never supported a top fantasy tight end.
- 2017: Tyler Higbee TE34 / 4.0 fantasy points per game
- 2018: Gerelad Everett TE20 / 5.8 points
- 2019: Tyler Higbee TE9 / 9.9 points
- 2020: Tyler Higbee TE17 / 8.7 points
- 2021: T.J. Hockenson TE13 / 12.1 points
PROJECTIONS AND STATS
Our Footballguys projections currently have Hockenson finishing as TE7 while averaging 11.2 fantasy points per game. Based on his current ADP, there are better options with a higher ceiling at the same point in your draft. Your best strategy is to wait on the position and take a streaming approach if you miss out on one of the big four options.
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