The 2018 season is now in the rearview mirror, so we can look back on it and reminisce. There is plenty of bad to look back on, but this series of articles will focus on some of the good.
The Atlanta Falcons finished the season ranked sixth in the NFL in total offense (6,226 yards) and 10th in scoring offense (25.9 points per game). This grouping of articles will highlight the five players who had the greatest impact and contribution to those very good rankings, counting them down from five to one.
Here is the fifth-best offensive player for the Atlanta Falcons from this past season.
5) Austin Hooper
Austin Hooper edges out Calvin Ridley, the team’s leader in touchdown receptions, to take his place among Atlanta’s most potent from this past campaign.
Hooper came into the season under the microscope, and with the pressure of the fanbase firmly on his shoulders. After a promising rookie campaign, the Stanford man didn’t quite live up to expectations in his sophomore season and would have likely had the team looking in another direction at the tight end position if he disappointed again in Year 3.
Hooper responded, and rather than cracking under that pressure, he became a diamond. His 71 catches, 660 receiving yards and four touchdown receptions don’t stick out on the page, but all of those marks place in the top 10 at the tight end position.
Hooper earned Matt Ryan’s trust (the two spent some time working out together before training camp this year), and finished first among all players at his position in catch rate (divides total receptions by total targets) with a mark of 80.7%.
Hooper did everything the team asked of him this season and, as a result, was named a Pro Bowl alternate. I wrote a piece at around the midway point of the season talking about how he’s stepped up this year, and he didn’t disappoint in the second half of the campaign either.
The Falcons go into next season without any serious questions about the tight end position (the way there were before the 2018 season started). This is Austin Hooper’s role, and he has a chance to grow into an elite option over the next few years.