Austin Hooper is officially a Cleveland Brown! After passing his physical Hooper can officially start to look forward to catching passes from 2018 1st overall pick Baker Mayfield.
Myself an Atlanta Falcons fan will miss the former Stanford tight end catching passes from 2016 MVP Matt Ryan, but Mayfield will certainly benefit from having arguably a top five tight end among his cache of weapons as he looks to bounce back from a difficult 2019 campaign.
In Atlanta Hooper proved to be a huge threat as Ryan’s safety blanket when matched up on the opposition’s third best defensive back, with Hooper’s power and speed it was a mismatch more often then not. It could potentially be a strategy that could be replicated in Cleveland with teams often focusing on shutting down Odell Beckham Jr.
Hooper’s might be best served as a third down safety net, the former Stanford man had 12 catches on third down for 131 yards in 2019 and was one of Ryan’s most trusted receivers hauling in 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns.
Developing chemistry between Mayfield and Hooper will be paramount for Stefanski after witnessing Mayfield struggle with David Njoku. If Hooper takes the same amount of dedication and work ethic into Cleveland that he did in Atlanta, Mayfield and the fifth year man will get on like a house on fire.
Regardless of how Hooper is used, his addition adds to the weapons in Baker Mayfield’s arsenal with Beckham Jr, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, Njoku and Hooper himself, giving head coach Kevin Stefanski plenty of flexibility in regards to personnel groupings.
The Browns faithful should expect a lot more two tight end sets under Stefanski who ran 12-personnel on 57% snaps in 2019 and taking into account the lack of chemistry between Mayfield and David Njoku who was targeted a mere 69 times last season. Hooper’s reliability and consistent improvement it wouldn’t shock me to see the former Falcon become a major fixture in this Browns offense.
Hooper may not repeat last season’s statistical performance, but he gives Mayfield a reliable option at a position, the young QB has lacked in the NFL. He had a great rapport with Mark Andrews at Oklahoma, something Baker has lacked with Njoku at this point.
Drawing attention from Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry will be key and Hooper’s consistency will be ideal for both Mayfield and Stefanski. Hooper had just two drops in 2019, Ryan had a 114.5 QB rating when targeting Hooper which is a promising sign for Mayfield. In addition, the former Falcon earned a 78.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, including an 80.5 receiving grade. He may not be as explosive as a George Kittle or a Travis Kelce, but he’s reliable and consisteny, and will be as successful as the offensive scheme allows him to be.