Austin Hooper is the most underrated tight end in the NFL

The Falcons lost again on Sunday, despite the efforts of tight end Austin Hooper. PFN's OSM metric makes a strong suggestion that Hooper may be one of the most underrated players in the league

Rob Gronkowski reset what it meant to be considered an elite tight end in the NFL. When he retired, it sparked the debate of who can lay claim to being the greatest tight end of all time. It is a change from the never-ending debate of whether Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T. or not! With Gronkowski gone, there are a handful of elite-level tight ends in the league. There is one name, however, that never comes up in the conversation and it’s time to right that wrong. It’s time to start giving some recognition to Atlanta Falcons tight end, Austin Hooper.

The Falcons are no stranger to high caliber tight ends. They did, after all, have Tony Gonzalez between 2009 and 2013. Don’t be confused. I’m not ready to throw a gold jacket around Hooper and induct him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, it is time to show him some love and using Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM), I’ll show you why.

OSM determines how much of a team’s performance can be attributed to an individual. Where most statistical analysis focuses purely on team performance, such as passing yards and completion percentage, where the statistics are the total of a combination of the efforts of multiple players, OSM isolates just the factors that an individual can control. As such, it gives a true indicator of an individual player’s contribution to their team.

OSM is graded out of 100, although it is near impossible to achieve this score. In fact, anything over a grade of 33 can be considered “elite” performance.

Hooper has elite performance in Week 6 loss

The Falcons fell to their fourth straight defeat of the season with a 34-33 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. They have multiple problems and the passing offense, Hooper included, isn’t necessarily one of them. The problem rests with a non-existent rushing attack and a porous defense. The Falcons, per ESPN, are giving up over 390 yards and 31 points per game. In the game against the Falcons, the leg of Matt Bryant also contributed, as the veteran kicker missed an extra point that would have tied the game.

As such, the efforts of the Atlanta offense, and especially Hooper, were for nothing. As OSM isolates the factors that only an individual can control, we can see how much of Atlanta’s offensive success rests with the tight end.

His grading for Sunday’s game was a staggering 52.31. When you consider that anything over a 33 grading is “elite,” it gives a truly impressive idea of how important he was to the offense. He led the Falcons in receiving yards for the 3rd time this season. That’s an Atlanta offense that features Julio Jones, who signed a big-money deal earlier in the year, at wide receiver. 

Hooper tallied 117 yards off 8 receptions for an average of 14.6 yards per play. He snagged himself a touchdown in the process, for just his third of the season. 

He did it with sure hands and separation. Next-Gen Stats charts Hooper as having 4.7 yards of separation at the time of the catch in Week 6. That’s good enough for 4th in the league behind only Willie Snead (5.4), Nelson Agholor (4.8), and Albert Wilson (4.8). His 8 receptions came off 8 targets for a 100% completion percentage. Tyler Lockett and George Kittle were the only other eligible players to achieve the feat in Week 6.

Tight End number one?

Hooper’s performance in Week 6 earned him the number one tight end OSM ranking. It’s become a habit for the fourth-year man out of Stanford.

He was also the number one ranked tight end in Week 1 with a grade of 51.42 and Week 4, where he logged a 47.33 grade. In fact, Hooper has been in the top-five in all bar one game this season. Interestingly enough, that game he still received a “good” grading of 31.99. It was also the only Falcons win of the season.

How does that compare to the established tight end hierarchy?

When people talk about the top tight ends in the NFL, you hear names like Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz. There’s a group of young tight ends that are slowly creeping into the conversation, including O.J. Howard and Evan Engram. Even players that are coming towards the end of their careers, like Delanie Walker and Jason Witten, garner more attention and credit than Hooper.

Of those aforementioned players, Kittle leads the pack with a 42.06 grade on the season, and an eighth-place ranking. Witten is next best with a grade of 40.26. You have to scroll past Howard (37.80), Engram (36.61), and Walker (35.02) until you find Kelce lurking as the 23rd ranked tight end with a 34.09 grade. Ertz, so often considered pivotal to the success of the Philadelphia Eagles, is just 32nd.

Hooper is the third-ranked tight end in the league with a 45.13 overall grade. Without that 31.99 grade significantly pulling his average down, he would be the number one overall ranked tight end for the season.

Let’s start putting some respect on his name when it comes to the tight end conversation.

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