In 2016, Austin Hooper was an intriguing young tight end who figured to be a major part of the offense sooner than later. He had some highlight reel catches along the way, but was relatively low on the target totem pole until late in the year, making him a fantasy asset only in extremely deep, two tight end formats.
This year promises to be a very different story. Hooper is the clear cut top tight end in an offense that figures to be friendly to the position, and his talent as a receiver and blocker were already evident.
Let’s take a closer look at his 2016 output and 2017 outlook.
Standard: 3.2 ppg
PPR: 4.6 ppg
Tight End Rank: Low!
The Falcons got a solid rookie season out of Hooper, but unless you were taking him in a dynasty format with an eye on the future, you didn’t get a ton out of him in 2016. Again, that was expected.
The Falcons spread their red zone targets around in 2016, meaning nobody even came close to scoring double digit touchdowns. That will probably change in 2017, just because few things stay the same year after year.
Hooper is the likeliest beneficiary of those red zone targets, because he’s a big, rangy target who did well in those situations late in the year and in the postseason, and because Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman will likely command more attention inside the 20. There’s some gut feelings involved here, sure, but I do think Hooper is the likeliest on the team to score 10-plus touchdowns.
If he does, the fact that he’ll only likely have 40-50 receptions won’t seem like such a big deal, particularly in non-PPR formats. Target Hooper as early as you’d go for any tight end not named Rob Gronkowski, and I don’t think you’ll regret it.