2016 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Austin Hooper
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Tight end is one of the weakest positions in the 2016 NFL Draft. With the lack of talent, Hooper made a wise decision to enter the draft after just his redshirt sophomore season at Stanford. He is easily the consensus second-rated tight end behind Arkansas' Hunter Henry and should be in demand come draft day. Once Henry goes off the board, there could be teams scrambling to land Hooper and not get shut out of a tight end upgrade.
Under Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw, Stanford has been a factory of NFL tight end talent. In the Cardinal's well-coached smash-mouth pro-style offense, the Cardinal has consistently churned out tight ends who are tailor made for the NFL. Recent prospects have included Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo and now Hooper.
After redshirting in 2013, Hooper had an impressive debut in 2014 as he caught 40 passes for 499 yards and two touchdowns. Last year, Hooper had similar production with 34 receptions for 438 yards and six touchdowns. He made a lot of clutch plays and was capable of producing more, but Stanford had a running-based offense led by the dynamic Christian McCaffrey. Hooper played a role in McCaffrey's tremendous season as he was an effective blocker at the point of attack.
After declaring for the 2016 NFL Draft, Hooper put together an excellent workout at the combine. He was a natural receiver in the field work and also was very impressive as a drive blocker with good technique. Sources from multiple teams said that Hooper interviewed well. He is an intelligent player who has been well-developed at Stanford despite coming out after only two seasons of playing time.
For the NFL, Hooper looks like a future three-down starter. He has the skill set to be a dangerous receiver down the seam and in the red zone, like he was in college. Hooper has the quickness to get downfield and is too fast for your average linebacker to run with. He has excellent hands and is very skilled at going up high to make receptions over defensive backs. Even though Hooper isn't the biggest of tight ends, he has good body control and uses his size well to shield the ball from defenders to make receptions. Hooper runs good routes, is smart to find the soft spots in zone, and is a smooth athlete. He should be a real asset in the NFL in the red zone.
Hooper also is a good drive blocker who should be a solid contributor to a team's running offense. Thus, he isn't limited to one part of the offense and can be out there on every down. Hooper could turn into a 10-year quality starter in the NFL.
In the 2016 NFL Draft, Hooper looks like a second- or third-round pick.
Player Comparison: Zach Ertz. Hooper reminds me of a shorter version of Ertz. Both are quality blockers and dangerous seam receivers. For the Eagles, Ertz has turned into quality weapon in the passing game. Ertz was a second-round pick of the Eagles in the 2013 NFL Draft, and Hooper could go in the same range of the 2016 NFL Draft.
NFL Matches: Atlanta, Los Angeles, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis and Chicago
There are a lot of teams that could use tight end help, and this is a weak tight end draft so Hooper should be in demand on Friday. Los Angeles has a big hole at tight end after letting go of Jared Cook. Hooper could play quickly for the Rams and would go well with their ground offense.
Atlanta has yet to find a capable replacement for Tony Gonzalez, and with Roddy White gone, the Falcons need more weapons for Matt Ryan. If Atlanta upgrades its front seven in Round 1, that could increase Hooper's chances of landing with the Falcons in the second round.
The Packers have to upgrade their tight end position, and Hooper would be a good fit for them. He makes a ton of sense for Green Bay. If the Packers don't take a tight end in the first round, they may have to considering trade up in Round 2 to land Hooper.
The Texans' tight ends were a huge weak link on their offense last year. Hooper could be in play for Houston.
Two lesser options are the Bears and Colts as both teams have bigger needs. Chicago could use another tight end after trading Martellus Bennett. Indianapolis lost Colby Fleener in free agency. However, both teams will probably go a different direction in Round 2.
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