GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Atlanta Falcons haven't found the success they've searched for in 2019 and fell to 1-5 after a 34-33 loss against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, but tight end Austin Hooper looks like an emerging star.
Atlanta's fourth-year tight end led all players with eight catches for 117 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, and he's been one of the most productive tight ends in the league through the first six games. Entering the game Sunday, Hooper had caught at least six passes in the Falcons' previous three games and no longer looks like a safety blanket but rather a bon-a-fide playmaker on an offense filled with them.
Coming into Week 6, Hooper ranked second among all NFL tight ends with 34 receptions, and his 363 receiving yards were third-most at the position. After Sunday's performance, Hooper now has 42 catches for 480 yards and three touchdowns.
Evan Engram and Travis Kelce were the two tight ends with more receiving yards than Hooper coming into Week 6, but Engram missed the Giants' game due to injury and Kelce was held to 58 yards on four catches in the Chiefs' loss to the Texans. Kelce's production in Week 6 gives him 497 yards this season, keeping him slightly ahead of Hooper for the time being.
But Hooper being in the conversation with players like Kelce, Engram and Philadelphia's Zach Ertz is a major positive in an otherwise bleak season for Atlanta.
The former third-round draft pick has improved with each successive season as a Falcon, and 2019 is shaping up to be his best year yet. Hooper is currently on pace to finish the year with 112 catches for 1,280 yards and eight touchdowns, which would establish new career highs across the board.