The latest Stanford Tight End to enter the NFL draft, Austin Hooper got the chance to showcase his athleticism in Indianapolis over the weekend. The junior started his Saturday as one of the bigger TE prospects available in the draft, measuring in at 6040 (6-4) and weighing in at 254 pounds, both NFL-type TE measurables. Statistically, Hooper didn't have the best season, recording 74 catches, 937 yards, and 8 TD's in his time at Stanford. A lot of that was due to McCaffrey's outstanding season and Stanford scheming to get the ball in his hands. But drafting TE's in the NFL has become more about athleticism and raw tools rather than collegiate production, which certainly benefits Hooper.
In addition to his size measurables, Hooper had a good showing in the athleticism drills. In the combine's main event, Hooper ran a 4.72 official 40. That's not eye-popping, but that's more than good enough for his position. At Stanford, Hooper was able to take advantage of his size and will look to do the same in the NFL so a 4.72 is good enough to solidify his position on most draft boards. Hooper also posted 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, which ranked 4th among tight ends. The bench press drill shows how dedicated the player was to their weight and conditioning programs in college more so than a display of raw strength, and NFL scouts will take note that Hooper was dedicated in the weight room which gives coaches confidence about this work ethic.
Hooper was able to beat defenders in college due to size, but he was also very good at creating separation at the top of his route. For a 6-4, 250-pound pass-catcher, defenders had a tough time anticipating what route he was running against man coverage which is a testament to his route running. However, Hooper isn't the quickest guy. He probably won't be used as a deep, explosive play kind of guy in the NFL. Hooper does have the ability to create yards after the catch, using both his speed and toughness. He has good hands and can go high point the ball in traffic.
One aspect the Stanford product needs to work on is blocking. He was good in this regard at Stanford, but needs to rely more on technique and having a wider base and a lower pad level otherwise NFL edge players will have their way with him. This is true for most TE's coming out of college so it shouldn't hurt Hooper's stock all that much.
Lance Zierlein of nfl.com, compared Hooper to another Stanford TE in Coby Fleener. Fleener was probably more athletic than Hooper, but I think Hooper is more well-rounded. In his three years with the Colts, Fleener has amassed 183 receptions and 17 touchdowns but teammate Dwayne Allen has been the primary TE threat. With a refinement on his route running and some stability at the QB spot for whichever team drafts him, Hooper should have a productive rookie season. The TE position has been devalued over the last few seasons, so I would give Hooper a late 2nd grade but he has the potential to surpass that grade.