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2016 NFL Draft: Gauging Stanford tight end Austin Hooper

The 2016 NFL Draft is still a ways off but here is an preliminary examination of Stanford Tight End Austin Hooper

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Hooper seems to be the most intriguing Stanford player who will be heading for the NFL draft. The fact that he has declared for the draft after only two seasons on the field with the Cardinal makes it difficult to place what kind of talent he really is. Unless you are a top-10 collegiate athlete, NFL scouts and GM's like to see at least three seasons of work to determine the value of a potential draft pick.

His natural size is another question mark. His 6'4, 251 lb. stature doesn't exactly make him a red-zone threat. Despite these shortcomings, Hooper's positive production at Stanford makes him one of the hotter commodities at the position this year. His 8 TD receptions and 937 receiving yards over two seasons can't be ignored.

So given these attributes, where should Hooper be projected to go in the draft? It's a little tough to gauge pre-combine, but I'd be a little surprised if he were taken any higher than the 3rd round. If I'm Dallas with an aging 33 year old Jason Witten, Hooper is on my draft board. He is a kid who will need a year to acclimate to the speed and style of the NFL, but once he does, he will become a viable starting TE.

Again, this is an assessment pre-combine, which is a part of the draft process I do tend to put a good deal of stock into. GM's love a good 40-yard dash time, and I strongly believe Hooper's will be near the top. Based on those scores, he may prove to be a 2nd round talent. Regardless of when he is taken, whoever ends up drafting him will not regret the decision.