Hooper was mentioned by head coach Dan Quinn at this week's NFL owners meetings as one player who the Falcons expect elevated performance from in 2018, D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Hooper increased his catch total from 19 during his rookie campaign to 49 in his sophomore season, but Quinn still sees substantial room for growth in the young tight end's game. "I'm really looking forward to where Austin Hooper is going to go," Quinn said this week at the NFL owners meeting, "In the run game, he can get better... (but) he's a really committed football guy. I think there will be a big jump." It's likely that improvement as a blocker would help Hooper increase his snap count from last season's 76.6 percent, but more consistent production as a receiver would also significantly bolster his chances of being a part of the Falcons' long-term plans. Hooper enjoyed a promising first half of the season in 2017, averaging nine fantasy points per game in PPR scoring through Week 10 before seeing that figure tumble to 3.2 in the second half.
Despite ripping off an 88-yard touchdown in the first game of the year, Hooper saw his average per reception drop from 14.3 yards as a rookie to 10.7 in 2017. He had a couple drops in crucial moments and finished the season with 49 catches for 526 yards and three touchdowns on 65 targets, failing to top 50 yards in any game after Week 1. The 2016 third-round pick appears locked in as Atlanta's top tight end, but he'll need to display major improvement to earn consistent volume, as the Falcons have the luxury of leaning on wideouts Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, in addition to the impressive backfield duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Hooper was third on the team in targets, but it was a distant third behind Jones (149) and Sanu (97). The 23-year-old hopes to get a head start toward a potential breakout campaign by working with Ryan early in the offseason while many of his teammates are still on vacation.
Hooper caught one ball for three yards Saturday in a 15-10 playoff loss to the Eagles.
The Falcons never expected Hooper to live up to the likes of Tony Gonzalez, but it's hard to say that he's lived up to expectations in two years in the league. Hooper did see a sizable increase in both targets and yards, as he finished the year with 49 receptions for 526 yards, but he was again held to only three touchdowns. Some of that is due to the fact the Falcons have a number of offensive weapons, but fantasy owners likely hoped for more this year. Hopefully, he continues to see more work and can find the end zone more frequently in 2018.
Hooper caught three balls on five targets for 15 yards in Saturday's 26-13 playoff win over the Rams.
Hooper has had between two and three receptions in each of his last seven games, so you know what to expect from him. He hasn't caught a touchdown pass in any of those games, either, so temper your expectations in the divisional round against the Eagles.
Hooper caught both of his targets for 12 yards in the 24-21 win over the Buccaneers on Monday.
Matt Ryan only completed 17 passes on the evening, so Hooper didn't get a lot of looks. He's gone five weeks without a touchdown and would be a risky option in Week 16 against the Saints.