Much attention has been paid to the defensive side of the ball in regards to where the Buffalo Bills will likely look to add multiple players in the 2016 NFL Draft, but they also need to acquire talent on the offensive side of the ball to build on their impressive 2015 season. The team signed Charles Clay to a lucrative deal last season, but Greg Roman’s offense regularly features multiple tight ends that need to both block and catch. Today, we’ll take a look at Stanford’s Austin Hooper, a potential draft target of the Bills.
Austin Hooper declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft after recording 34 catches for 438 yards and six scores in his junior season. In Stanford’s run-oriented, pro-style offense, Hooper didn’t get a lot of opportunities to showcase his abilities as a receiver and regularly was attached to the line of scrimmage and was asked to block on a regular basis.
Austin Hooper Size/Physical Attributes
Austin Hooper measured in at 6’4” and 254 pounds at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, with 33 ¾” arms and 10 5/8” hands—the largest among all tight ends. He ran a 4.72 second 40-yard dash, which ranked 3rd at his position and his 7.0 second three-cone and 4.32 second 20-yard shuttle ranked fifth. He put up 19 reps on the bench press (4th-best), and posted a 33” vertical leap (6th) and a 9’9” broad jump (5th).
Hooper has a good profile for the position, and his frame could stand to add some more weight if necessary. He’s got broad shoulders, long arms and big hands that help him pluck the ball out of the air. He’s not going to burn anyone over the top with his speed, but he’s got a nice build up when accelerating and is quick getting in and out of his breaks.
Austin Hooper Route Running/ Hands
Austin Hooper has good footwork and underrated play speed that allow him to run a variety of routes and create separation. At Stanford, he was used on slants, hitches, curls, posts, corners and go’s, so he has experience running a full route tree. He’s physical in his release against press and has the strength to knock a defender back without losing balance in his route stem, and he’s not afraid of contact at all.
In the following play against Southern California, Austin Hooper runs a beautiful corner route and makes a fantastic contested catch near the end zone. At the snap, he runs through Su’a Cravens’ attempt to jam him, accelerating down the field before cutting outside. He gets in between two defenders and uses his 10 5/8” hands to snatch the ball out of the air and secure the catch.
Hooper will fight for extra yards, as he shows in the following clip. After a great slant route that beats the linebacker across his face, Hooper makes the catch and gets downhill, weaving through multiple defenders to find the endzone.
Austin Hooper doesn’t get enough credit for his athleticism, body control and fearlessness, which he puts on display on this seam route against UCLA. Hooper gets vertical over two Bruins’ defenders and quarterback Kevin Hogan delivers a pass that forces him to contort his body back towards the ball. He sees the safety coming downhill to deliver a hit, but Austin Hooper makes the grab and holds onto the ball after taking a shot.
When plays break down, Hooper shows the awareness to run with his quarterback and find a hole in a zone to try and make a play. Here, Hooper runs a curl route but as the play breaks down and Kevin Hogan rolls out of the pocket, he runs with him and gets open over the middle of the field. Hogan completes the pass and Hooper picks up an additional 15 yards after the catch.
Austin Hooper Run Blocking
Austin Hooper was often attached to the line of scrimmage and serve as a blocker for Stanford’s run-first offense and he showed a tenacious mentality when doing so. He can stand to get stronger and refine his technique when it comes to shooting his hands into a target, but his willingness and effort allow him to be effective as well.
Here, Austin Hooper blocks down on a power run to the left, knocking a defensive tackle off his spot before releasing and engaging with a linebacker at the second level. It’s an impressive show of play strength and awareness, as the linebacker that he sealed was in a position to make a play on the running back.
In the following play against UCLA, Austin Hooper is sent in motion to block the force defender on another power run. Hooper does a good job of rolling his hips through contact and sealing the defender out of the way, clearing a lane for his running back.
Potential Fit with Buffalo Bills
Austin Hooper is an ideal fit for the Buffalo Bills, as Stanford runs essentially the same offense as they did when offensive coordinator Greg Roman was there. His abilities as both a run blocker and a receiver are impressive and he has the skill set to play the “Y” where he’s attached to the line of scrimmage, as well as in the backfield as an H-Back or even flexed out into the slot. The Bills offense relies on tight ends that can block, something Austin Hooper does very well and his talents as a pass catcher would make him an even better weapon within the Bills’ offense.
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