Receiving Ability

As with all receivers, for tight ends, receiving ability has to start with the ability to catch the ball, and this is something that Hockenson does well, extending his arms to make the catch away from his frame, therefore enabling him to make catches in traffic:


As well as showing the ability to track the ball well through the air:


In addition to this, he also shows decent deep speed to offer some value in terms of his ability to stretch the field:


Though as can be seen on this next play, he is probably not going to be running away from most NFL safeties and linebackers in a straight sprint:


Of course, receiving value is about a lot more than the ability to run and catch, and the biggest skill that NFL tight ends need to show is the ability to separate as route runners. Hockenson does certainly do some nice things as a route runner, using his frame to create separation at the route head:


And a reasonable ability to cut laterally at moderate speed:


He even shows the occasional nuance, such as on this next play where he initiates contact to allow him to subtly push off to create separation:


However, a lot of his receptions came either on plays where he was actively schemed opened:


Or on routes such as the one he runs here – where there is limited separation generated by the route itself:


Another concerning fact was that when he was asked to make hard cuts to separate, the defender didn’t seem hugely pushed to stay with him:


The final slight cause for hesitation was that when he was asked to run more complex routes, such as the stick and go shown on both of the following plays, he looked really lumbered, either not hesitating enough:


Or over-laboring the fake:


The concerning part here is that he just doesn’t look smooth in his changes of direction, and while this might simply be a lack of sufficient coaching to understand how to make the most out of the route, it is not the look of a polished, NFL-ready route runner.

The other area of technique that NFL tight ends need to demonstrate is the ability to get off the line against press. This isn’t something that college tight ends face very often, and it is certainly not something that Hockenson was exposed to enough to make a strong statement, but he looked somewhat unprepared when he was asked to work through early contact as a route runner:


What he does offer, as something of a sweetener, is a real ability to make plays after the catch:


This isn’t going to be enough to make him a plus receiver by itself, but while I have been quite critical of Hockenson’s ability as a receiver, there is a lot to be optimistic about, but there is also a long way to go from where he is currently to where he needs to be. I have Hockenson below Smith because I think there is enough need for development as a receiver that his ability to be a plus player from day one is less certain, but the fact that I don’t think he’s a sure thing to be elite day one doesn’t mean that he can’t be an elite receiver with some development as well as a plus blocker to boot.

Grade: Mid 3rd Round

Best-Case NFL Comparison: Austin Hooper


Vincent Richardson on Twitter
Vincent Richardson
Managing Editor at Riot Report
Fan of zone coverage, knee bend and running backs running routes. Twitter: @vrichardson444