Austin Hooper took a major step back in 2020, and while there's some hope for a bounce back, Hooper is no more than a late-round pick as a low-end starting tight end. We expected Hooper to see fewer targets in Cleveland, but what was more surprising was that his efficiency took a major hit as well. HIs 6.2 yards per target was the worst mark of his career and he only had three games all season with more than 50 receiving yards. The Browns employed multiple tight ends throughout the year and there isn't enough volume for a reliable third contributor behind Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry with that type of distribution.
Hooper and QB Baker Mayfield should have better chemistry in their second season together, according to Mary Kay Cabot of The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Hooper was disappointing for fantasy managers last season, unable to overcome the challenge of joining a new team with a new coaching staff in a year without spring practices or preseason games. He had a better year from the Browns' standpoint, with competent blocking helping the team's prolific rushing attack and a late flurry of receiving production contributing to a playoff appearance. Hooper is locked in as a starter for the second season of a four-year, $42 million contract, but there's no guarantee of improvement on his 2020 average of 5.4 targets per game, considering the Browns also have David Njoku and Harrison Bryant at tight end, not to mention WR Odell Beckham returning from an ACL tear. On the other hand, Hooper does have plenty of room to improve his efficiency after posting career lows for both catch rate (65.7 percent) and yards per target (6.2) last season. He had a 77.3 percent catch rate and 8.1 YPT in four years with the Falcons.
Hooper caught seven of his 11 targets for 46 yards and a touchdown during Sunday night's 48-37 wild-card win against the Steelers. Hooper notched a seven-yard TD catch with 34 seconds remaining in the second quarter to push Cleveland's lead back to four possessions before the halftime break. Baker Mayfield looked the tight end's way again in a key third-down goal-line situation in the fourth quarter, but Steelers defensive back Terrell Edmunds disrupted the pass to cause an incompletion. After registering just one TD over his first eight games as a Brown, Hooper has scored in four of six appearances heading into a divisional-round matchup against Kansas City. The two-time Pro Bowler has established himself as a go-to guy for Mayfield, with a team-high 11 targets in the wild-card round and a total of 37 passing-game looks since Week 15.
Hooper caught four of five targets for 37 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 24-22 win over Pittsburgh. Hooper, who scored for the third time in five weeks, now has four touchdowns for the season. He's been a big part of the passing attack the last three weeks, catching 17 of 26 targets for 149 yards and two TDs during that span. With the win, the Browns clinched a playoff spot, and Hooper is on a roll leading up to next week's wild-card round playoff game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Hooper caught seven of 15 targets for 71 yards in Sunday's 23-16 loss to the Jets. Hooper caught a ball on the game's first play, foreshadowing his heavy involvement against a Jets defense that has been the league's most generous to opposing tight ends. The veteran tight end led the Browns in targets, catches and receiving yards as the team played without its top four wide receivers due to a late-week COVID-19 outbreak. Hooper's unlikely to find as much success in Week 17 against the stingy Steelers defense, especially if he slides back down in the pecking order due to the return of some sidelined receiving options.
With several receivers landing on the COVID-19 list, Hooper is expected to be a primary target for Sunday's game against the Jets, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Cleveland will be without wideouts Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge and Donovan Peoples-Jones, all of whom were close contacts of linebacker B.J. Goodson, who tested positive for the virus. The development reduces the number of known targets for quarterback Baker Mayfield, who will throw to a crew of untested wideouts in Marvin Hall, Ja'Marcus Bradley and Derrick Willies. That means known commodities such as Hooper, David Njoku, Harrison Bryant, Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb will be prominent in the passing attack. Hooper's 50 targets are the most among the group that will be available Sunday.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|1||09/12||@Kansas City Chiefs||30||9.68|
|5||10/10||@Los Angeles Chargers||22||7.88|
|10||11/14||@New England Patriots||6||6.13|
|15||12/19||Las Vegas Raiders||15||7.13|
|16||12/25||@Green Bay Packers||5||5.78|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||85||64||627||5||33||9.80||94|