Tight end Austin Hooper, 25, is a stud in the making. He’s done everything he can to prove his worth in the last two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and is now playing for a team that is paying him stud-level money. However, can his amazing stats translate into future success? Let’s first look back at his outstanding 2019 season in order to look ahead at Austin Hooper’s fantasy value in 2020 with the Cleveland Browns.
Austin Hooper’s 2019 campaign
Hooper’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM) for the 2019 season was an elite 40.14, putting him at TE5. This means he was a large contributor to both his own and his team’s success on the field. He scored as the top TE three separate weeks (Weeks 1, 4, and 6), and his worst OSM score came in Week 14 when he returned from his injury. Even that week, he was only TE16, which is a very impressive feat on its own. Hooper was dominating on the field, and this clearly translated to his impressive stats as well.
Hooper had his best season yet in 2019, catching 75 of 97 targets for 787 yards and 6 touchdowns in only 13 games. In terms of fantasy, this put him at TE6 in PPR, scoring 14.7 points per game, which was third among TEs. He was a beast and someone that fantasy managers were happy to have on their rosters more weeks than not.
Not only did Hooper perform well in terms of yearly stats, but he also did so consistently. He ranked fourth overall using PFN’s Consistency Score calculation, just behind George Kittle and Darren Waller and ahead of Zach Ertz. While three of his 13 weeks he scored fewer than 10 fantasy PPR points, he was someone fantasy managers could set and forget every week he was healthy.
Hooper’s 2020 Home: The Cleveland Browns
When the Browns signed Hooper to his four-year, $44 million deal, he was “the highest-paid tight end in the NFL besides Hunter Henry playing on the franchise tag for the Los Angeles Chargers.” This deal would recently be eclipsed by both Kittle and Travis Kelce, but it still showed just how impressed the Browns were with his talents. Clearly, they see a tight end of the future and someone that will be a large part of the team’s success going forward.
Strangely enough, Hooper’s new contract and team haven’t helped his ADP much. He’s currently going at 94 overall in Fleaflicker ADP, the 11th TE off the board in drafts. Even though he finished as the TE6 in both 2018 and 2019 in PPR scoring, fantasy managers aren’t so sure about his new surroundings. Perhaps it’s the shortened offseason or the change of quarterback, but most likely, it’s the fact that he’s got some competition at the position in David Njoku.
Austin Hooper’s fantasy value for 2020
Hooper’s fantasy value for 2020 will be most impacted by his own teammate in Njoku, the 24-year-old tight end already on the Browns roster. Njoku finished 2019, having only played in four games due to injury, thus leading the team to look for another option in Hooper in free agency. But Njoku is back at 100% and is unlikely to just give Hooper the starting job without a fight.
In PFN’s redraft rankings, Tommy Garrett has Hooper ranked 94th (TE10) and Njoku ranked 258th (TE31). All signs point to Hooper taking the reigns, but even TE10 seems low given his prior output. If Hooper is going to get back into the top tier of tight ends, he will likely need Njoku to get traded or have another injury slow him down. Neither is really something fantasy managers are willing to put money on just yet, so Hooper’s upside is more limited than usual, especially in redraft leagues where this season is all that matters.
From a dynasty standpoint, however, Hooper is a terrific buy-low candidate. Depending on how the current fantasy manager values him, Hooper could be a steal at the right price. Based on his 2019 game film, PFN’s Sam Penix concluded that “Hooper should have the best four-year stretch of his career with the Browns.” Clearly, he’s got the talent, now he just needs to produce, and all signs point to Hooper having a bright future on the team, we’re just waiting to see if that future starts now or later.
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Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering the NFL and Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewHallFF.