Browns Make Austin Hooper NFL's Richest TE, Add Him to Loaded Fantasy Corps - Roto Street Journal
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Browns Make Austin Hooper NFL’s Richest TE, Add Him to Loaded Fantasy Corps

The Browns made major shock-waves today by getting Baker Mayfield some help at the tight end position. They made Austin Hooper the league’s richest tight end ever, which is crazy. However, this happens every year to reset the market. Still, Hooper was a beneficiary of the tight end whisperer in Atlanta, Dirk Koetter, where he set career highs across the board in receptions (75), yards (787), and touchdowns (6) in only 13 games played.

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In fact, prior to his Week 10 injury, Hooper was the TE1 in fantasy football. He averaged an insane 17.2 FPs per contest, trailing Julio Jones by just .2 FPs per contest. Hooper was never quite the same after his injury, failing to score another TD, but still finished the season with back-to-back 7 catch, 11+ FP days. He ultimately tallied the third most points per game.

This was largely due to scheme. Koetter LOVES TEs. He’s the first to say as much, gushing: “I’m the first to admit that I like tight ends.”

The numbers don’t lie. In Tampa, Cameron Brate and OJ Howard have combined for 11 and 12 TDs the past two seasons. Prior to Howard’s arrival, Brate scored 8 TDs (2016), while Austin Seferian Jenkins was on pace for 90 targets and 9 scores in 2015.

In his last stint with Atlanta, Koetter dialed up Tony Gonzalez over 120 times in back-to-back seasons (2012-’13). Hell, even the no-name Mercedes Lewis hauled in over 700 yards and 10 TDs under Koetter’s watch in Jacksonville.

Hooper leaves this TE-dominant scheme for a much more uncertain offense under Kevin Stefanski. Granted, Stefanski’s Vikings ranked 9th in TE target percentage (24%). Kyle Rudolph did have a stretch with 6 TDs in six games… but only logged 48 targets (3 per game).

Not only is Stefanski’s scheme less TE-friendly, it’s simply a much smaller Aerial Pie. Whereas Atlanta led the NFL with 45.9 pass plays per game last season, Minnesota was 31st (30.9).

The total passing volume will be significantly smaller here, yet, like Hooper’s time in Atlanta, features a ton of mouths to feed.

Sure, the Falcons featured their own stacked weapons cabinet with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. But the offense featured enough fantasy food to keep them all well-fed.

The Browns also sport two top WRs in Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, along with elite receiving back Kareem Hunt. In particular, Hooper’s role seems to overlap where Landry does a ton of his damage.

According to Derek Brown, Hooper spent 59 percent of his snaps in the slot, compared to only 28 percent in-line as a tight end. He also noted that Hooper has not exceeded over 40 percent of his snaps in-line since 2017. Landry was good out-wide last year, but it still seems like it’s an overlap from a snap perspective.

With the Browns breaking the bank on Hooper, this could mean it’s the end of the line for David Njoku, who is now firmly on the hot seat in Cleveland. Yet, Stefanski ran 12 personnel (2 TE sets) more than any one, and early speculation is he’ll keep Njoku around.

Simply put: removing Hooper from the fantasy-friendly confines of Koetter’s system, and injecting him into a lower-volume passing attack that’s already loaded with weapons, will make it very, very tough for him to even approach his 2019 season stats. Perhaps I’m overreacting, but he falls all the way to my TE16, and I’d much prefer Hayden Hurst, Hooper’s replacement in Atlanta.


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