Open thread: Will T.J. Hockenson make the Pro Bowl again in 2021?

Pride of Detroit

When you take a tight end in the top 10 of the NFL Draft, you expect results. For Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson, a quiet rookie season caused some to label him as a bust. In 2020, he aimed to prove them wrong.

A Pro Bowl nod was well deserving for Hockenson, who placed third in tight end receiving yards behind Travis Kelce and Darren Waller with 723 yards. Although Kelce and Waller blew him out of the water in terms of yardage (1426 yards and 1196 yards, respectively), he was much improved as a blocker, highlighting the balance that made him a valuable prospect. Kelce and Waller were also the focal points of their offense, while Hockenson was often a secondary or tertiary option. 2021 could be a very different story with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola gone.

There is still debate about the value of drafting a tight end that early—a debate that was only intensified by the Falcons selection of Kyle Pitts fourth overall this year—but that was a decision made by a past regime. The current staff has a great asset in Hockenson to work with, and it shouldn’t matter when he was drafted to them. Already in the upper echelon of tight ends in the league, there is plenty of optimism for his upcoming 2021 campaign.

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Will T.J. Hockenson make the Pro Bowl again in 2021?

My answer: I believe he will.

Hockenson in 2021 has a great combination of opportunity and competition. For opportunity, he could very well be the featured receiving option on offense, as the top two receivers of Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman are fairly lackluster. Add in a 17-game season, and we could see him top the 1,000-yard barrier. Hockenson and new quarterback Jared Goff have continuously built up their chemistry on and off the field, and they could be a great connection come game day.

The other factor at play is competition in the NFC. Assuming the Pro Bowl maintains the same format, two tight ends from the NFC will make the roster. Thankfully for Hockenson, a lot of the top talents are in the AFC. Of the top six tight ends by receiving yards, five of them—Kelce, Waller, Mike Gesicki, Mark Andrews, and Noah Fant—were in the AFC.

The best tight end in the NFC without debate is George Kittle, who was injured for part of 2020, and he figures to be a lock for the Pro Bowl if he stays healthy. That final spot on the roster will be up for grabs between the likes of Hockenson, Evan Engram (the second NFC Pro Bowler last season), Logan Thomas, Rob Gronkowski, Kyle Pitts, and Dallas Goedert, among others. It is a fairly broad field, but not overly impressive. Pitts is the biggest competition in my eyes, given that he could see a lot of touches after the departure of Julio Jones and he is a better pure receiver than Hockenson—stats tend to win over voters.

However, I think he has the best chance to make the Pro Bowl from those names. If the Lions can get a repeat of his 2020 season, that will be good. If he can rise above and put himself on the same level as Kelce and Waller, that would be incredible. It could be a rough season for the Lions, but watching Hockenson could be one of the bright spots.

Your turn.


Will T.J. Hockenson make the Pro Bowl again in 2021?

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