News & Analysis

Austin Hooper remains a top-10 fantasy football option in Cleveland's crowded attack

The NFL legal tampering period got off to a quick start with the news that Austin Hooper has agreed to terms with the Cleveland Browns. That sound you just heard was all of your David Njoku dynasty shares imploding. 

Hooper is coming off a strong 2019 campaign where he posted career-bests in catches (75), yards (787) and touchdowns (6) despite missing three games. He finished the season ranked sixth among tight ends in fantasy scoring, which was the same spot he occupied in 2018. 

Of course, the elephant in the room is how the Cleveland offense will look after an extremely disappointing 2019 season. The regime change should be a favorable one, as Kevin Stefanski comes in after spending the last 14 years with the Vikings. Stefanski was instrumental in Kirk Cousins’ solid 2019 season where he graded out as the No. 4 quarterback in PFF passing grade, so that bodes well for Baker Mayfield having a bounce back season.

Hooper’s fantasy stock could certainly be impacted by the fact that there are a lot of mouths to feed in Cleveland. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry dominated the target share last season and figure to do so again this year.  But Hooper showed he can still command the ball in an offense that featured Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. His 17% target share ranked seventh among tight ends last season. That number was significantly higher than Njoku, who saw just an 8% share when he was on the field last season. 

But comparing to last year’s Browns isn’t going to give us much intel. Instead, we should look to the Vikings, who also had a pair of standout receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Even with those two dominating the targets, nearly 20% of Minnesota’s targets went to Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith. That bodes well for Hooper, as he figures to see the lion’s share of the work with Njoku on the short end. Hooper remains a top-10 fantasy option at the notoriously thin tight end position.

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