The Fantasy Football Impact of Austin Hooper Signing With the Browns
In a much-needed way, Cleveland also bolstered their offensive line by signing right tackle Jack Conklin to a three-year deal. In summary, the Browns now have one of the league's most formidable offenses -- an offense that will run short on excuses.
But you're not here to read about a right tackle per se. No, you're here to read about the fantasy impact these signings might have on every fantasy-relevant player involved. And no, I'm not talking about Case Keenum -- who also signed with Cleveland yesterday.
Along with Hooper, the Browns boast a weapons arsenal that includes Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and, for now, David Njoku. That's without mentioning their uber-talented backfield of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, whom they placed a second-round tender on.
That's a lot of hungry people splitting a rather small pie -- the Browns were bottom-half in the league in both pass attempts and pass-to-run ratio.
Last season, the Browns and Carolina Panthers were the only two teams to have two players with more than 120 targets. For Cleveland, it was two receivers -- Beckham and Landry. For Carolina, it was a receiver and a running back (!!) -- D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey. In fact, after OBJ and Landry, Cleveland did not have a single player with more than 50 targets.
Hooper averaged 92.5 targets in his last two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. The question is, what will his target share look like in Cleveland?
Hooper's Role and the Ripple Effect
While it was likely because their talent was distributed elsewhere, the Browns targeted tight ends at the fifth-lowest rate in 2019. That is cause for concern as far as what that means for Hooper.
With five different tight ends combining for a mere total of 74 targets, he will have to mooch looks from other sources.
Tight ends tend to work as security blankets, which is why it should come as no surprise that Hooper had the 14th-lowest average depth of target of any tight end or wide receiver. Accordingly, it seemed like Baker Mayfield's security blankets in 2019 were his backs, who garnered a total of 115 looks. Hooper's arrival should put a significant dent in that. However, don't adjust your rankings for Chubb and Hunt just yet.
While Cleveland was 12th in the league in running back share of targets, they were 7th in receiver share. And that makes sense since two receivers combined for 271 targets. All in all, they targeted receivers 323 times in 2019.
All that said, the biggest key here is Cleveland's hiring of Kevin Stefanski as head coach. Stefanski's one season as offensive coordinator shows potential implications for Browns' players across the board.
Stefanski's run-first philosophy had a drastic effect on Minnesota's stud wideouts. Stefon Diggs averaged 8.4 targets in 2017 through 2018 -- a number which dropped to 6.3 in 2019. Adam Thielen averaged 9.2 targets in those two seasons, down to just 4.8 in 10 games last season. While Kyle Rudolph's targets dropped (due to the arrival or Irv Smith Jr.), Minnesota actually went from targeting tight ends at the fifth-lowest rate in 2018 to the ninth-highest in 2019.
In simple terms, his hiring is #good for Chubb, Hooper, and -- potentially -- Hunt, and it's #bad for Beckham and Landry. But, it's reassuring that Stefanski's philosophy hasn't resulted in a star wide receiver requesting -- and ultimately being granted -- a trade. Oh, wait...
In a not-so-dissimilar situation in Atlanta in 2019, where Hooper was competing for targets with two studs receivers -- Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley --, he managed to establish himself as a mid-tier player at a shitty position.
Even if Hooper's production drops to 80 percent of what he produced last year, he still would've finished as the TE7. When I said it was a shitty position, I meant it.
Given Stefanski's run-first preference, it would be unreasonable to expect a significant jump in targets or production for Hooper. The likeliest scenario is a line similar to what he posted last season.
With that in mind, there's no need to reach for Hooper in redraft or give up the house for him in dynasty leagues -- in fact, if you can get a haul for him, you might want to consider pulling the trigger.