The Falcons were unable to keep Austin Hooper in Atlanta after the Browns made him the richest tight end in league history.
However, they were able to acquire former first rounder, Hayden Hurst, from the tight end heavy Ravens. Hurst, who people forget was drafted ahead of Lamar Jackson, has clearly fallen behind Mark Andrews on the depth chart. He has all the talent to make noise in Atlanta and it also helps he’ll have the tight end whisperer, Dirk Koetter, dialing up plays for him.
Stay up to date on all the Free Agency Fantasy Fallouts! Bookmark our Fantasy Stock Watch. Even better, consume them in our cleanest format by downloading the Roto Street App.
Straight up, the guy loves tight ends.
When asked about the historic success of tight ends in his scheme, Koetter cut right to it:
“I’m the first to admit that I like tight ends.”
The numbers don’t lie. Last season, Hooper exploded for a career year, finishing as the TE6, despite missing three games. Before his Week 10 injury, Hooper was the No.1 TE — yes, better than Travis Kelce and George Kittle. Hooper ultimately caught 75 balls for 787 yards and six touchdowns and finished third in FPPG — just in time to reset the tight end market as a free agent.
When Koetter was in Tampa, Cameron Brate and OJ Howard combined for 11 and 12 TDs in 2017 and 2018. Prior to Howard’s arrival, Brate scored 8 TDs in 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.
It’s in the usage: Koetter often sends his TE on deep crosses, vertical seam routes, and corner fades for major chunk plays, especially within the 20. Now that Hooper has moved on, it’s Hurst’s time to have a career season under Koetter.
Matt Ryan is already forming the rapport with Hurst, who’s been driving from Jacksonville to Ryan’s home in Atlanta to work out together. Ryan raved:
“He is for sure one of the fastest and most athletic tight ends I’ve ever played with,” Ryan said. “He’s a mismatch problem, he’s going to create separation and win in different ways than those guys did”
“I’ve been incredibly impressed with Hayden’s work ethic…He’s got great speed, great athleticism. Wants to be a great player … the effort, the attitude all of that stuff is there. He fits in well with the group of guys we have.”
As a result, he exploded up our 2020 Fantasy Big Board to TE10, and we’d much rather own him than Austin Hooper.