TIGHT END AUSTIN HOOPER, a 3rd round selection (81 overall) by the Atlanta Falcons. Let’s discuss why Hooper deserves consideration as your #1 rookie Tight End target somewhere in the mid-late 2nd round of rookie drafts:
|40-YD Dash||Bench||Vert||Broad||3-cone||20-yd Shuttle||Draft Position||10-yd Split|
|AUSTIN HOOPER||4.70||19||33″||9′ 09″||7.00||4.32||81||1.62|
|TYLER EIFERT||4.65||22||35 1/2″||9′ 11″||6.92||4.32||21||1.65|
|ZACH ERTZ||4.76||24||30 1/2″||9′ 03″||7.08||4.47||35||1.68|
|ROB GRONKOWSKI||4.68||23||33 1/2″||9′ 11″||7.18||4.47||42||1.58|
On the surface, Hooper is as explosive as any of these guys, aside from Gronk. Gronk and Hooper actually had something in common coming out of college…they were each over a year younger than Eifert and Ertz and each had only 2 years of playing experience. Each of the 4 Tight End’s have incredibly impressive 10-yd split times for the position, but only Gronk’s split was faster than Hooper’s, which is why Hooper looks like a WR sometimes blowing off the line. All 4 have impressive shuttle and 3-cone times, and in Hooper’s case it translates to quick feet and body control. He is a polished route runner that creates separation. These are the attributes that lead me to believe that if Hooper stayed another year at Stanford, he might have moved into high 2nd round consideration.
- Opportunity – Most rookie Tight Ends don’t put up good numbers, many times it is due to the fact they are learning to play offensive line and inline receiver. Hooper needs to get stronger but his arms are long and he has big hands, which should help in the blocking game. He should see the field in the red-zone on a team that did a poor job of converting red-zones trips to TD’s last season. If he can become serviceable as a blocker, its possible the Falcons will leave him on the field to create mismatches leading to a fair amount of red-zone targets that should lead to TD’s, even as a rookie.
- Skillset and build – I spoke earlier to the fact that Hooper has light feet and moves well, has a very solid 10-yd split time and gets off the line quickly. His route-running is solid and he looks crisp and fluid coming in and out of his breaks. He is a big target in the red-zone and will create mismatches with his size and long arms. At the combine, Brian Spurlock of USA TODAY Sports said, “after the drills of the combine came to a close Saturday, it is widely agreed upon that Austin Hooper is the best looking prospect coming out of Stanford. Hooper really impressed in his route running, catching ability, and field awareness during the variety of drills he participated in”. Let’s take a look at how Hooper matches up physically:
|AUSTIN HOOPER||6′ 4″||256||33 3/4||10 5/8||31.91|
|TYLER EIFERT||6′ 5 1/3″||250||33 1/8||9 1/8||30.12|
|ZACH ERTZ||6′ 5″||249||31 2/3||9 2/3||30.24|
|ROB GRONKOWSKI||6′ 6″||264||34 1/4||10 3/4||31.24|
Here we can see that while Hooper is roughly an inch shorter than the other Tight Ends, Gronk is the only one on this list with longer arms and bigger hands. BMI is Body Mass Index, which basically considers someone’s height and weight and gives a number for how “compact” they are, or how they are built. Hooper has the largest BMI of the 4 Tight Ends we are comparing, so even though Hooper is shorter than the other Tight Ends, he can leverage his weight, long arms and hands when blocking, which should get him on the field.
Final Takeaway – While Hunter Henry is the consensus #1 Tight End in the rookie class, think about how difficult it was for Ladarius Green to get on the field. Green was a size/speed freak who could block and catch, but the Chargers didn’t get him involved much when Gates was healthy. Although part of my endorsement for Hooper is his situation, I would still be considering Hooper in the same breath regardless of where he landed, the situation ices it for me. The fact that Atlanta hasn’t been able to field a real threat at Tight End since the retirement of Tony Gonzalez is reason enough to get interested in any Tight End prospect here…and Hooper should get every chance to be the “next” Tight End in Atlanta. Feel free to pull the trigger on Hooper in the back-end of the 2nd round of rookie drafts and early to mid 2nd round in Tight End premium leagues. Expect him to get involved early and often.