“Tight End U” is still alive and well on The Farm.
Tight end Austin Hooper was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft with the 81st overall pick, becoming the second Stanford player of the 2016 draft class to hear his name called. Hooper had been rated by NFL.com as Stanford’s second-best prospect behind Joshua Garnett, who was taken in the first round by the 49ers.
Hooper is the 13th tight end in Stanford history to be taken in the draft and joins Alex Smith (2005), Greg Clark (1997) and Chris Dressel (1983) as Stanford tight ends selected in the third round. He is the fourth Stanford tight end drafted in the last five years, joining Coby Fleener, Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. He was the second tight end off the board this season after Arkansas’ Hunter Henry was taken early in the second round.
The 6-foot-4, 248-pound junior was the only Stanford player in his class that decided not to come back to Stanford for his senior season and leaves Stanford after playing just two seasons in the cardinal and white. During his time on The Farm, he totaled 74 catches for 937 yards and 8 touchdowns. Although his catches and yards went down from 2014 to 2015, he set a career-high in touchdowns (6) during his junior season.
In his time at Stanford, Hooper did it all: He was a reliable target on third downs and in the red zone, was able to stretch the field and get open for the deep ball, and, as required by Stanford’s run-heavy offense, was a great edge blocker to pave the way for NCAA all-purpose yards leader Christian McCaffrey. He impressed at the NFL Combine, posting top-five marks among tight ends in the 40-yard dash, bench press and three-cone drill.
On the Falcons, he will be reunited with former Stanford tight end Levine Toilolo ’13, who caught 7 passes for 44 yards as a backup to Jacob Tamme. Tight end has been a dire position of need for the Falcons after the retirement of Tony Gonzalez following the 2013 season — Atlanta tight ends combined for just 69 of the Falcons’ 410 receptions last season and just two of the 21 receiving touchdowns.
Hooper was projected by most services to get drafted in the second or third round thanks to his pro-ready size, versatility and physicality, though he still has room to improve with his hands and his route-running.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.