Tight end Austin Hooper, who blossomed into one of the NFL's best at his position over four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, has signed with the Browns.
Here are five things to know about Cleveland's newest weapon in the passing game.
1) Hooper is coming off his best season in the NFL. His 75 receptions were fifth-most among the league's tight ends and his 787 receiving yards ranked sixth. Perhaps most importantly, he was one of the most consistent producers at the position, taking on at least five targets in all 13 of the games he played. He caught at least four passes in all but two of the games.
2) Hooper's emergence as one of the league's best tight ends started in 2018. Though he started just seven games, Hooper appeared in all 16 for a second consecutive year. He amassed 71 receptions for 660 yards and four touchdowns to land his first of two straight trips to the Pro Bowl. So, combine the last two seasons, and Hooper is averaging more than five catches per game for an average of nearly 50 yards.
3) In a Sept. 2019 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, Hooper credited a handful of factors for his emergence as one of the top pass-catchers on the Falcons. First, he simply had a better understanding of what he was asked to do within Atlanta's offense. "My understanding of the playbook and situations of that nature, the X's and O's in terms of my development has gone up," Hooper said. "I think that's lent itself to me getting more opportunities – just understanding the game better ... You've got to fill up your bank with lots and lots of reps. I feel like I'm continuously getting better. It's a position that I don't feel I'll ever really master. I just try to get better every day." Secondly, Hooper credited new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for making him a larger part of the game plan than Steve Sarkisian did in previous years. "Sark looked at the three world-class receivers we have and said we should feature those guys. I don't blame him for it," Hooper said. "Dirk's just a different play-caller, likes to spread the ball around."
4) Hooper was one of a whopping seven Stanford tight ends to be drafted during the 2010s. Only Zach Ertz and Coby Fleener, both of whom were second-round picks, went higher. Hooper was selected in the third round of the 2016 draft after catching 34 passes for 438 yards and six touchdowns in just his second year of on-field action. His integration with the Falcons was slowed a bit because he remained at Stanford for more than a month after the draft to graduate. Still, he made an impact, catching 19 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. "It's a very mental position because you have to be in both worlds – the receiver/route-running world and understanding how to read coverages on the run, and manipulate defenders vs. man and zone," Hooper said in the same AJC article. "At the same time you've got to be able to block a 300-pounder and move them in the run game, so there's a lot on your plate … Being a rookie, I didn't have OTAs. I didn't show up until training camp. I had to learn all those route running skills, in-line blocking and blocking in the open field because you're going to be split out."
5) Hooper comes from a family filled with athletes. His father Michael, played football at San Diego State and his uncle, Greg, played fullback at Stanford from 1979-82. Another uncle of his, Chip, played professional tennis and his younger brother, Justin, played baseball at UCLA.