herald-dispatch.com

herald-dispatch.com

Gator Hoskins is currently ranked as the fourth fullback in the 2014 draft class by CBS NFL Draft Scout – 270th overall. Considering that only three fullbacks were drafted in 2013, it seems like Hoskins is currently an UDFA candidate.  However, he led all college tight ends in touchdowns this season (13) and possesses impressive athleticism.  According to Marshall head strength and conditioning coach Joe Miday, Hoskins posted the following numbers on a workout day before the 2012 season:

Height

Weight

40-yard dash

10-yard split

Vertical

Broad Jump

6’2

247

4.57

1.51

37.5

10-3

Even after adjusting for environmental bias, it is obvious that Hoskins possesses wide receiver-like athleticism at a massive 247 pounds.  From a workout number standpoint, Hoskins reminds one of a less athletic Chris Gragg (who Frank Dupont spoke about here and here), or a more athletic Aaron Hernandez.

From a statistical standpoint, Hoskins is a touchdown scoring machine.  A quick look at his heat map (along with some useful comparables) shows his dominance:Hoskins posted an incredible 0.7 redzone touchdown rate along with grabbing a .34 market share of touchdowns.  His msTD rate is incredible given that Hoskins only received 64 targets (13.4% of all targets for 2013 Marshall).  Hoskins’ low market share of yards would be concerning without proper context.  The Marshall offense dedicated 146 targets to 5’7” (!) Tommy Shuler in 2013, who proceeded to post 7.51 yards/target while gaining only a slightly larger share of yards (.29) than Hoskins.  Appropriate usage of Hoskins could have easily driven up his Dominator Rating.  However, msYDS analysis of tight ends in college often yields false conclusions due to low usage and differing developmental curves from wide receivers.

So why is Gator Hoskins off the draft radar? We’ve already discussed his lack of usage, as many are still obsessed with “receptions” and “yards” stats without proper context.  Gator also attends a small school, which is more an issue of national exposure than competition.  As we begin analyzing Hoskins as a player, we find a few bias points. He is only 6’2” – short for a tight end.  However, Charles Clay blossomed this season despite being only 6’3, in part due to his redzone prowess.  Digging further, one will find that Hoskins was Marshall’s fullback as well as starting tight end.  This leads one to think, where exactly does Gator Hopkins project as a pro?

The lack of clear positional definition allows Hopkins to fall through the cracks in traditional “rankings”.  With that in mind, an interesting comparable to Hopkins is Eagles tight end James Casey.  Casey faced similar competition in college, is of similar size (less athletic), and is also a FB-TE tweener (although Casey averaged ~50 carries/season at Rice).  The point can be made that Casey has “busted” as a pro, as he has been out snapped by rookie tight end Zach Ertz and starter Brent Celek in 2013.  However, on a small number of opportunities as a pro he’s done pretty well in the red zone (3 of 5 targets in 2012 converted into touchdowns).

Despite talent evaluators projecting Gator as a fullback/H-Back in the NFL, he has the athleticism and touchdown scoring ability to play the “move” TE position.  Hoskins was recruited as a wide receiver out of high school, so he also has the ability to play on the outside if he can run below a 4.6 at the NFL combine. Hoskins could also rotate into the backfield much like Aaron Hernandez did with the Patriots as well as be an in-line blocker.  Hoskins himself is a blend of his comparables – James Casey’s skillset with Chris Gragg/Aaron Hernandez athleticism.

At this point, all Hopkins costs is one roster sport while representing an arbitrage opportunity for teams that are not willing to pay the price of this offseason’s tight end sweepstakes.  Even at his bargain price, Hopkins has a very good chance to outperform many drafted ahead of him.

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