2023 NFL Draft Ageless QB Prospect to add to your First-Round Board: Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker

0
109
Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Hendon Hooker, 6’4” 218 lbs, Quarterback, Tennessee (Senior)

The Tennessee Volunteers, led by head coach Josh Heupel, have quickly risen towards the top of the college football world this season, especially after their upset win over then #3 ranked Alabama. When watching this team play, their strength lies in their offense, led by their spectacular QB Hendon Hooker. This article will show you why I believe Hooker is more than a one-game or one-season sensation, and why he could possibly even rise up your favorite NFL team’s draft board should it need a young signal-caller next spring.

Player Overview: 

  • Former 4-star recruit (according to 247Sports) out of Greensboro, North Carolina in 2017
  • Former Virginia Tech starting QB who transferred to Tennessee before the 2021 season.
  • Took over the starting QB job in 2021 from incumbent starter Joe Milton by the second game of the 2021 season.
  • Currently second in the nation in Passer rating and completion percentage behind Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.

 

2022 season stats (after Week 6):

  • 1817 passing yards (302.8 passing yards per game)
  • 70% completion percentage
  • 15 passing touchdowns, 1 interception
  • 59 carries, 287 yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 3 rushing touchdowns.

 

Strengths:

  • Good size with a well-built, tall, lean, and athletic frame; Above average arm strength; light feet; elusive with really good agility displays good toughness and strength as a runner
  • Excels at throwing the ball with impressive touch and accuracy at all levels; really quick release and; an excellent deep ball thrower with incredible timing, the ball jumps out of his hands and he has the ability to float the ball in the air to give his receivers a chance to make play deep down the field
  • Does a good at using subtlety in his play-action fakes to deceive defenders and gets rid of the ball with excellent timing and anticipation
  • Reliable in clutch situations, using patience in the pocket, and displays good poise to not force throws in tight coverage. Also adept at using check-downs to make wise decisions.
  • Takes care of the football, only threw 3 interceptions versus 26 touchdown passes in 2021, and only threw his first interception of the season in Week 6 versus Alabama
  • Displays consistent ball placement. His throws can sail high at times, but it’s still placed where only his receiver can make the play on the ball.
  • Does a good job climbing the pocket and puts himself in a great position to escape pressure most times.
  • He is a dynamic thrower who is really dangerous as the game goes on the more rhythm he takes, the more he can dissect a defense’s weaknesses even in pressure situations.
Hendon Hooker Moves Up Leaderboard in Tennessee Touchdown Rankings | Rocky Top Insider
Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.

Weaknesses:

  • Displays only average straight-line speed, not really a threat for long runs when compared to other athletic quarterbacks.
  • Inconsistent at throwing the ball with pressure in his face, which is a trait a lot of elite athletic quarterbacks tend to have (i.e. C.J. Stroud in college, or Patrick Mahomes in the NFL), and he may face some adversity with teams with better pressure rates than previous opponents.
  • Can improve sliding when he runs out of the pocket and exposes himself to too many hits.
  • Lacks rip throws to bail him out when pressure comes too quick, really not as efficient in these situations.
  • Plays in an offense with a lot of telegraphed throws and screens, so how he translates into an offense that relies on reading progressions to make decisions is potentially a question mark for evaluators.

Overall, Hooker is a high-IQ QB prospect who plays to his strengths and doesn’t force the issue, by really taking care of the football with a low turnover rate while also making big plays, especially in critical moments. He has really shown the ability to lead his teams from tough situations this year playing a really competitive schedule as Tennessee sports the most wins in the nation versus ranked teams this season, including the upset versus Alabama, and is now the #3 team in the country halfway through the season. Do not be surprised if Hooker is at the very least a top 3 Heisman finalist by the end of the season.

Pro comparison: a more athletic Mac Jones

2023 NFL Draft Projection: Hooker projects favorably for teams needing an athletic quarterback that can win from the pocket and play a quick-rhythm offense with a lot of play-action passes mixed in with throws requiring anticipation and timing. Some NFL teams may hesitate to draft him given his age (he will be 25 years old in his rookie year in the NFL), but Quarterbacks tend to play longer than the average position in the NFL, and when all is said and done, I believe Hooker can prove that age is nothing but a number. If a team is sold on his physical tools, and mental makeup, and still believes there is still a bit of upside to his game, do not be surprised if (like my colleague Walter Stringer once said) he gets a Kenny Pickett-type rise up the draft boards come springtime, and sees his name called in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.