Hockenson is the highest-selected tight end since Vernon Davis went No. 6 overall to the San Francisco 49ers in 2006.
Hockenson, who won the John Mackey Award last season as the nation's top tight end, was the first non-quarterback offensive player taken Thursday. He was a first- or second-team All-American by almost every major outlet and led Iowa in receiving last season, with 760 yards and six touchdowns.
Hockenson said he had all positive conversations with the Lions throughout the draft process.
"You never know what's going to happen through this process," he said during a conference call with reporters. "I'm super excited to be part of this organization. I've heard nothing but great things coming from this organization, so I'm just super excited to be a part of it, get up there and do some work."
The last time a tight end went in the top 10 was 2014, when the Lions took Eric Ebron with the No. 10 overall pick. Ebron lasted four years in Detroit and was a divisive player for much of his time with the Lions because of the players who went after him in the draft, including Odell Beckham Jr., Taylor Lewan and Aaron Donald.
Hockenson said he doesn't feel any additional pressure being the eighth overall pick. Asked if he was surprised about the lack of tight ends in the top 10, he called it a "unique" position.
"There's a lot of different things that go into it, and there's a lot of different aspects that you need to learn," Hockenson said. "So it is a tough position in this draft, but like I said, I'm excited to be part of this organization."
Lions general manager Bob Quinn said the team targeted Hockenson early in the draft process. He views Hockenson as a three-down player, which was missing from the position last year, and likes that he can block well and catch passes.
Quinn was especially impressed by Hockenson's hands and considered him an offensive playmaker because he was often the player who got the ball in critical situations at Iowa.
"Really checked every box that we had in terms of the evaluation process from on-field to third down to red area to blocking to special teams to culture to his intelligence to his work ethic," Quinn said. "You name it -- he checked basically every box throughout the whole process. Really excited to have him here. Had a good conversation with him when we took him."
Hockenson caught 74 percent of his targets last season, third-best among tight ends (minimum 40 targets), and averaged 11.5 yards per target.
He joins a position group with recent free-agent signings Jesse James and Logan Thomas, along with incumbent Michael Roberts. Detroit's top two tight ends last season, Levine Toilolo and Luke Willson, are no longer with the club.
Quinn said he sees a lot of sets in which the Lions could play Hockenson and James on the field at the same time.
It marked the first time in the common draft era that two tight ends from the same school were drafted in the first round.