Ever since Tony Gonzalez hung up the cleats following the 2013 season, the Atlanta Falcons have been searching for his successor at the TE position. While replacing arguably the best TE in NFL history surely is no easy task, Dan Quinn and co. are confident they found their new offensive edge setter for the next decade in Austin Hooper.
Coming out of Stanford, the Falcons selected Hooper in the 3rd round. The Stanford graduate is an intelligent guy which translates on and off the field – particularly with picking up a new NFL playbook. What made him so special during his days as a Cardinal was his polished receiving skills. Hooper is the best pure receiver of any TE from the 2016 draft class, including Hunter Henry.
In an offense that already features one of the best WRs in the game in Julio Jones, Hooper will get his fair share of targets as teams shift their defensive focus on containing a star like Jones. Hooper has a good combination of route running, speed and hands which will allow him to make an instant impact in the passing game. His frame and athleticism make him a legitimate redzone threat – a sector of the field where Matt Ryan was limited last season.
The unsung hero of Atlanta’s offense this past season was Jacob Tamme, another guy who happens to play TE. He finished 2nd on the team with nearly 700 receiving yards, although he only managed to haul in one TD throughout the year. I think the Falcons would prefer to incorporate Hooper into the offense over Tamme – especially in passing situations.
There are a select few out there hyping up Hooper and even going as far as labeling him the best fantasy rookie after Ezekiel Elliott. I’m not going to go that far. However, he does present tremendous upside. You would have to think he’ll step in and be the instant #2 option for Matt Ryan in the passing game – unless he takes a liking to Mohamed Sanu. Although, guys like Tamme and Levine Toilolo will steal some snaps at TE.
As a rookie, I’m projecting 400-500 receiving yards with a trio or so of TDs – similar to that of my projection for Hunter Henry’s rookie production. However, Hooper carries more value in a dynasty format as he has the edge as a receiving threat and finds himself in a slightly better offense.