The Falcons switched their attention to the offensive side of the ball in the third round. Atlanta’s offense looks to be in as good a shape as it has ever been heading into the 2016 season. Matt Ryan will have a new receiver in Mohammad Sanu to target, a revamped offensive line and of course Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman to work with. However, Atlanta has yet to fill the gap at tight end since Tony Gonzalez retired. Jacob Tamme did a nice job last season as a fill in, but he is far from a long term option, and Stanford product Levine Toilolo has yet to prove to be much of a receiving option for Ryan.
Austin Hooper is another Stanford bred tight end with much more potential to be a consistent target for Ryan than Toilolo was. He is 6 foot 4, 260 pounds and runs a sub 4.7 40-yard dash. He could be exactly what Ryan and the Falcons need as a safety blanket in the middle for tough third downs, but also has the ability to go over the top with his unique combination of size and speed. Hooper caught 74 balls for 937 yards and 8 touchdowns in his two playing years at Stanford. He received first-team All-Pac-12 honors and third-team All-American honors last season. Hooper needs some work. He is still very raw and can become a better route runner and improve his hands, but the Falcons are going to need this man to step up quick.
Jacob Tamme was the Falcons second-most productive receiver last season and will continue to be the starter heading into the season. Hooper will likely get spot snaps alongside Toilolo, but I expect for Hooper to get the nod in most pass-catching situations. Tamme has proven he can still be a viable option, so the Falcons do not need to rush Hooper along, but look for Atlanta to try and get Hooper involved in the passing game as much as possible. If he impresses, he could be starting a lot faster than people think.
Take a look at some of Austin Hooper’s college highlights: