The Atlanta Falcons selected Stanford tight end Austin Hooper with their third-round (81st overall) selection to wrap up the second day of the 2016 NFL Draft. Hooper is the second ex-Stanford tight end selected by the Falcons in the past four years, as they took Levine Toilolo in the fourth round in 2013. He continues a strong legacy of Stanford tight ends, becoming the fifth drafted since 2010.
Hooper potentially helps the Falcons in the red zone, coming off a season that saw him snag six touchdown passes. The Falcons will be betting on his upside as Hooper opted to go pro following his redshirt sophomore season.
That decision was prompted by a brief, but prolific career at Stanford where he earned All-Pac-12 honors twice and was named a Freshman and third-team All-American in both years. He was a Mackey Award finalist, given to the top tight end in the nation, this past season when he finished with 34 catches and 438 yards (12.9 avg). As a redshirt freshman, he snagged 40 catches for 499 yards (12.5 avg) and two scores.
Hooper’s athletic traits are also worth noting given that his 4.72-second 40-yard dash, 19 bench-press reps and 7.00-second three-cone time each finished within the top five among tight ends at February’s Scouting Combine. That athleticism coupled with his large 6’4”, 254-pound frame and nearly 11-inch hands could make him an asset in the Falcons passing game as well as bolster their blocking.
Coincidentally Hooper was deemed a potential Falcons selection last summer when projecting what the team’s tight end position could look like in 2018.