Austin Hooper moves from Atlanta to Cleveland for 2020, joining Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and David Njoku in a talented but inconsistent passing game. Hooper established himself as a reliable possession receiver in Atlanta. He served as a safety blanket for former quarterback Matt Ryan and will likely fill a similar role for Mayfield. The Browns clearly have a high opinion of Hooper as they made him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL this offseason. The capital invested into Hooper suggests he will be a consistent part of the passing game and he should have a solid weekly floor moving the chains when Mayfield has to check down. One reason to be optimistic about Hooper is Cleveland's new coaching staff. The one area Mayfield excelled in last season was passing out of sets utilizing multiple tight ends. Mayfield threw for nine yards per attempt out of 12 personnel in 2019, good for third-best in the NFL. New Head Coach Kevin Stefanski utilized 12 personnel on a whopping 34% of the Vikings' offensive snaps last season, second-most in the league. If Stefanski continues to heavily utilize sets with multiple tight ends, it should suit Mayfield's strengths and all of Cleveland's pass catchers, including Hooper, should stand to benefit.
What Hooper provides in stability he lacks in explosiveness. While Hooper finished fifth among all tight ends in receptions last season, he only posted 10.5 yards per reception, good for a mediocre 22nd in the league. Translation? Hooper should catch plenty of passes, but big yardage and touchdown totals are likely outside his range of outcomes. He could also see a reduction in targets moving from pass-happy Atlanta to the more run-oriented Browns, particularly when Hooper will be competing with receivers of the quality of Beckham and Landry for Mayfield’s attention. Finally, Hooper will still share the tight end depth chart with David Njoku, who has disappointed as a pass catcher to this point but profiles as a more explosive option if he ever were to put the pieces together.
2020 Bottom Line
Hooper is a classic “high-floor/low-ceiling” pick to fill the tight end slot. He should provide a weekly floor, especially in PPR leagues, but do not expect huge weeks where Hooper leads your team to victory. He should be treated as a low-end TE1 and is a reasonable pick once the higher upside tight ends are off the board.