Staying Ahead of the Curve: T.J. Hockenson
In Dynasty Leagues, one of the key components to short and more importantly, long term success is to stay ahead of the curve and one step ahead of your league mates. There are several different strategies you can employ to achieve this.
One part of the strategy under the spotlight in this series, is looking at how we can exploit their impatience and use that to acquire studs prior to their ‘breakout’ at a cost far below the value they will eventually return.
On the flip side, we will identify players that we should be looking to build up the courage to ‘sell high’ either on the basis that a true breakout will never come to fruition or simply because their current market value is so astronomical that the right move is to get a treasure trove in return for them right now.
A perfect example of this in action is a look-back at the 2019 Rookie Class. Many Dynasty Owners will have looked on longingly as Kyler Murray, Josh Jacobs, A.J. Brown, Miles Sanders, Devin Singletary and Terry Mclaurin exploded on to the scene and experienced a breakout during their rookie season whilst they grew frustrated with their own draft selections for not having close to the same impact.
What is often overlooked is that these breakouts are more the exception than the rule and many young players take time to acclimate to the rigours of the NFL, whether it’s the speed of the game or the more complicated schemes they need to pick up before they can be unleashed. The more this is overlooked by frustrated owners, the more we can take advantage by approaching them and stealing these players from under their nose for a much lower price than they were acquired.
For the players that do break out immediately, in some cases of course it will be a sign of things to come and the start of highly successful careers in the NFL but for others, the hype will far outweigh their actual value meaning their market cost will never be higher than it is at this moment.
Without further ado, let’s get to it with our first player on the slate.
T.J. Hockenson TE – Detroit Lions (Drafted Eighth Overall)
The 6’5” behemoth out of Iowa was touted as a generational talent when he was selected by the Detroit Lions at Eighth Overall in the 2019 NFL Draft and it’s easy to see why.
After red shirting his freshman year in 2016, Hockenson compiled 73 receptions for over 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns in his final two college seasons. Group this together with elite blocking skills and outstanding workout metrics (including an 89th percentile burst score, 88th percentile agility score and most importantly, an eye watering 92nd percentile catch radius per PlayerProfiler.com) and it’s easy to see why he was the most coveted Tight End prospect in some time.
Hockenson backed up every bit of the hype in Week 1, dismantling the Arizona Cardinals with 6 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown. This sort of production was never going to be sustainable as Hockenson would only surpass 50 yards once more in Week 9 vs the Oakland Raiders (3 receptions for 56 yards) and would only score one more touchdown in Week 4 vs the Kansas City Chiefs (3 receptions, 27 yards, 1 Touchdown). His season came to an end following an ankle sprain in Week 13, finishing as the TE24 in PPR formats with 32 receptions for 367 yards and 2 touchdowns.
It’s no secret that rookie Tight Ends tend to struggle in year one as not only do they need to learn blocking scheme concepts of an offensive lineman but also must understand the nuances of route running at the pro level. Previous Rookie Tight End production backs this up. Since 2005, only two Rookie Tight Ends drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft have finished as a TE10 or higher in their first season.
It is worth noting that Travis Kelce played in only one game in the 2013 season before undergoing knee surgery and returning as a Top 10 Tight End in 2014 and should be considered in the same bracket as Evan Engram and Rob Gronkowski as outliers to the norm.
From 2005 – 2018 only thirteen Tight Ends drafted in the first three rounds (including Engram and Gronkowski) finished as TE20 or higher in their rookie year.
Of course, without digging deeper, a comparison like this doesn't tell us much in regards to projection of future performance. Therefore, using the 'RotoViz Screener' I identified the closest comparisons (Since the 2000 NFL Season) to T.J. Hockenson's Rookie season including Age (22), Draft Selection (First Three Rounds), Weight (242-252 Pounds) as well receptions per game, receiving yards per game, yards per reception, catch rate, fantasy points over expectation (measuring efficiency) and receiving touchdowns.
This took my excitement up a notch with Hock keeping company with the likes of Hunter Henry, Chris Cooley and Vernon Davis as his closest comparisons in his first year in the league. By now, it doesn't take Al Davis to work out that i strongly believe that T.J. Hockenson is a screaming buy in Dynasty Leagues before that window of opportunity slams shut. But how about in Startup Dynasty Leagues for 2020? Based on his closest comparisons, what sort of leap can we expect him to make in Year 2? Lets take a look at how his three closest comparisons performed in their Sophomore season.
Sold yet? All three players made a considerable leap in the majority of categories in their second year and i'm expecting the same type of production from T.J Hockenson in 2020.
VERDICT – BUY BUY BUY
T.J. Hockenson has the college production, outstanding metrics and historical comparisons to support the view that a breakout is coming. On top of this, he evidenced enough flashes in 2019 to suggest his development is right on track.
In early FFPC Best Ball Leagues for the 2020 Season he is currently being drafted late in the Eighth Round as the TE14 making him almost certain to return fantastic value in startups this off-season, especially if Matthew Stafford returns at 100%. In your existing Dynasty Leagues, stay ahead of the curve and go out and acquire him before the buy low window slams shut.