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Stanford's Austin Hooper could be quite a catch for Atlanta Falcons


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http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/20487/stanfords-austin-hooper-could-be-quite-a-catch-for-atlanta-falcons

Third-round draft pick Austin Hooperhas already caught passes in the red zone from an Atlanta Falconsquarterback -- sort of.

During a private workout in March, the former Stanford tight end spent the last two minutes of the session fielding balls thrown by Falcons tight ends coach Wade Harman from inside the 20-yard line.

"Coach Harman is a great coach. His arm isn’t as good as Matt Ryan's, so I don’t think I was challenged quite as much," Hooper said a laugh. "The ones that were able to be caught, yes, I caught them."

Tight end Austin Hooper gives the Falcons another dangerous option in the red zone. Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo

Harman and the Falcons got the hint, even if the passes didn’t allow Hooper to show off his full capabilities. They figured he was the type of tight end who could be an asset as a pass-catcher in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s scheme. They knew his size, at 6-foot-4 and 254 pounds, and speed (4.72 in the 40, third-best among tight ends at the NFL combine) would help create mismatches and stretch the field.

So now that he’s in the fold, Hooper has a chance to show just how dangerous of a red zone threat he can be.

"I do believe it’s a little bit too early to talk about that," Hooper said. "But from what I’ve done in college, which isn’t the same, I feel like once I have some time to learn and get some reps against the best competition in the world, I can develop into my role which, with Stanford, was being a third-down guy in the passing game and being able to block on first and second or second and third down.

"I believe with my work ethic, I can fulfill the role they want me to fulfill over in Atlanta."

The Falcons had their share of red zone woes last season, including a slew of turnovers. Though they possess arguably the most dangerous receiving threat in the league in Julio Jones, the Falcons didn’t take full advantage of their red zone opportunities. They could have been even better than their 54.7 percent red zone conversion rate, which ranked 17th in the league. The Falcons were fifth in 2014 at 60 percent.

In steps Hooper, who caught six touchdown passes last season in a Stanford offense dominated by Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey. Three of those touchdowns were in the red zone, and one them was a 42-yard, catch-and-run down the middle at Oregon State.

Stanford tight ends coach Morgan Turner was most impressed with the red zone production Hooper had in a 41-31 win over USC.

"If you go back and watch the game, he goes up and on a corner route, high-points the ball over two DBs," Turner said. "He makes another catch when it’s Cover 0; a contested catch. Both were in the red zone that got us down to the 1- and 2-yard lines. He’s definitely a threat because he will make contested catches."

When asked which players he patterned his game after, Hooper didn’t hesitate in his response.

"First of all, Antonio Gates is the reason why I wanted to play the tight end position when I was 12 years old," he said. "I tried to watch a lot of his film as a kid growing up. In high school, I watched a lot of Jason Witten."

Surprisingly, there was another player Hooper tried to emulate -- one familiar to Falcons fans.

"Once I got into Stanford, I had played mostly defensive line so I really knew a little about tight end, so I watching a lot of Levine Toilolo film," Hooper said of the current Falcons tight end. "I was also watching a lot of Zach Ertz film, a lot of Coby Fleener film, a lot of Jim Dray film.

"I have talked to Levine. It was really cool because Levine actually texted me, which was a testament to what type of dude he is. I obviously watched him since I was a recruit in high school. The ability to play with a guy like that is such a huge blessing."

Hooper is thankful for the opportunity to play with the Falcons, period. He figured there was a strong chance of such occurring after the day he caught red zone passes from Harman.

"It was a team that showed interest from the beginning," Hooper said. "The tight end, you know as well as I do, is more of a luxury position. It’s not a position that just anyone on the board could draft. I had Atlanta showing me the most love. And I knew there was a legit chance whenever they were on the clock, it was a good chance.

"When they worked me out privately, Mr. Dimitroff, Mr. Pioli, Coach Quinn, Coach Harman, the whole crew was out there. When you have more than eight guys out there working you out -- you and three other teammates (Joshua Garnett, Blake Martinez, Kyle Murphy) -- it shows that you are of interest to them."

 

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My God, I started 2 threads about this very thing, about Hoopers skill set as it relates to catching TDs in the red zone and it fell on deaf ears around here. As decent as Tamme has been, he sucks in the red zone and only catches balls in space. Hooper attacks the ball in the air and catches it at its highest point even with defenders draped all over him. Hooper boxes defenders out, Matt Ryan is going to LOVE Hooper in the red zone THIS YEAR as that part of his game is there already, while Hooper works on the other parts of his game to become a complete TE over the next coup,e of years.

Hooper was a big score for us in the middle of the 3rd round. Can't believe he lasted that long.

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Hopefully he helps us win and be more successful in the red zone.  I worried last year that the zone blocking scheme bogs down in tight areas since you don't get "cutback lanes" near a goal line, and as great an athlete as Julio is, he doesn't seem to get passes his way in the endzone that are contested jump balls very much.  I think he's so tall and skinny he has trouble making contested catches because the defenders shoot hands through and knock balls loose before he can secure it.  I'm not saying he can't do it because he's made some of those catches, but I've seen him get some knocked loose too. 

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I said the same about Hooper after watching his game tape (not highlights). The kid attacks the ball and once he learns the playbook will become dangerous. I like tamme but he plays like a skinny legged pass catching fullback rather than a TE. Hooper has a more complete skill set than any TE on our roster. 

 

Seems that if you don't grab the name everyone is talking about (Henry) everyone here thinks it's not a great pick. He's going to be dangerous. 

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1 minute ago, 1989Fan said:

I think Hooper comes from a similar scheme if I remember correctly. So he should pick things up quick, and I can see him outperforming Tamme even this year. That said Tamme is super reliable, and wont go down without a fight.

He does come from a similar scheme and he's very smart. He should be able to run simple red zone routes and make plays this year including some TDs , but other parts of his game will take a little time to come together such as leaning how to block and disengage off NFL defenders and the passing game between the 20s. But this year, red zone shouldn't be a problem to pick up.

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6 hours ago, gazoo said:

My God, I started 2 threads about this very thing, about Hoopers skill set as it relates to catching TDs in the red zone and it fell on deaf ears around here. As decent as Tamme has been, he sucks in the red zone and only catches balls in space. Hooper attacks the ball in the air and catches it at its highest point even with defenders draped all over him. Hooper boxes defenders out, Matt Ryan is going to LOVE Hooper in the red zone THIS YEAR as that part of his game is there already, while Hooper works on the other parts of his game to become a complete TE over the next coup,e of years.

Hooper was a big score for us in the middle of the 3rd round. Can't believe he lasted that long.

^_^ :o

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2 hours ago, Lord Sarcomere said:

He's my favorite selection from this draft for some reason. I really thought he was going to be a second round pick. 

He will be a good one.

I feel much as you do about him, he has a shot to impact our offense almost as much as Neal does our defense except Neal will be involved in far more downs. Hooper is REALLY going to help our red zone offense and within a year or two he'll be a seam splitting zone busting terror apt hat will help us tremendously match up against certain defensive schemes. In the playoffs he will be a critical piece to beating the better NFL defenses.

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6 hours ago, gazoo said:

My God, I started 2 threads about this very thing, about Hoopers skill set as it relates to catching TDs in the red zone and it fell on deaf ears around here. As decent as Tamme has been, he sucks in the red zone and only catches balls in space. Hooper attacks the ball in the air and catches it at its highest point even with defenders draped all over him. Hooper boxes defenders out, Matt Ryan is going to LOVE Hooper in the red zone THIS YEAR as that part of his game is there already, while Hooper works on the other parts of his game to become a complete TE over the next coup,e of years.

Hooper was a big score for us in the middle of the 3rd round. Can't believe he lasted that long.

Only thing is that Matt, for whatever reason, hasn't really thrown a lot of jump balls in the red zone. You'd think that with Julio and Hooper, he'd be more prone to, but we'll see...

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Just now, OC said:

Only thing is that Matt, for whatever reason, hasn't really thrown a lot of jump balls in the red zone. You'd think that with Julio and Hooper, he'd be more prone to, but we'll see...

Matt often threw perrectly thrown passs when Tony G was here to where only Tony could, and did, catch them. Now that he's got a TE that can go get those balls I fully expect him to utilize his TE this way with those precision passes to where only Hooper can get them.

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4 hours ago, ya_boi_j said:

I wonder why he watched a lot of toilolo film

I'm wondering the same thing. The only thing I can figure is that Toilolo is a pretty good blocker, and maybe he's trying to learn some blocking technique from him. It is definitely surprising to hear someone talking about Toilolo at all.

Edited by Karl Hungus
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3 minutes ago, Karl Hungus said:

I'm wondering the same thing. The only thing I can figure is that Toilolo is a pretty good blocker, and maybe he's trying to learn some boxing technique from him. It is definitely surprising to hear someone talking about Toilolo at all.

He stated he watched Toilolo's tape because Toilolo is "technician" and he talked up his blocking. 

His interviews are so impressive to me for a guy his age. He is very articulate and he sounds like he hasn't earned anything yet and is eager to prove it on the field. Definitely my favorite pick we made. 

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2 hours ago, gazoo said:

Matt often threw perrectly thrown passs when Tony G was here to where only Tony could, and did, catch them. Now that he's got a TE that can go get those balls I fully expect him to utilize his TE this way with those precision passes to where only Hooper can get them.

Hooper has to earn that first. Gonzo earned that. He was covered and Matt still threw to him cause he knew Gonzo would more than likely make that catch. That trust with a rookie TE wont come quickly. Especially in the beginning of the season

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11 hours ago, gazoo said:

My God, I started 2 threads about this very thing, about Hoopers skill set as it relates to catching TDs in the red zone and it fell on deaf ears around here. As decent as Tamme has been, he sucks in the red zone and only catches balls in space. Hooper attacks the ball in the air and catches it at its highest point even with defenders draped all over him. Hooper boxes defenders out, Matt Ryan is going to LOVE Hooper in the red zone THIS YEAR as that part of his game is there already, while Hooper works on the other parts of his game to become a complete TE over the next coup,e of years.

Hooper was a big score for us in the middle of the 3rd round. Can't believe he lasted that long.

You were picked on a lot in high school weren't you?

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