Name: Hendon Hooker
Weight: 217 lbs
Games watched: vs. Pittsburgh (2022), vs. Florida (2022), vs. Alabama (2022), vs. LSU (2022)
For a while, it felt like the conversation around the quarterback position in the 2023 draft was only going to feature four names. Hendon Hooker changed all of that at the Senior Bowl and the combine, wowing teams with his demeanor, work on the board and football IQ. Hooker is one of the toughest players in this draft class to evaluate. On one hand, he is coming off a Heisman-worthy campaign playing the SEC and has tons of starting experience under his belt. On the other hand, Hooker is already 25 years old and coming off a torn ACL suffered in November. Opinions on him are wide-ranging, with some folks banging the table for him to be the third quarterback off the board and others maintaining that he should be drafted in the third round.
Hooker, like so many others in this class, is well-traveled by this stage in his career. He spent his first four collegiate seasons at Virginia Tech, starting the final two. He transferred to Tennessee in 2021 and turned in a pair of impressive seasons for the Vols. He wasn’t even the starter when he arrived in Knoxville, taking over the starting job in Week 3 from Joe Milton and never looking back. He will get knocked for playing in Josh Heupel’s spread system, which is very quarterback-friendly and does not require signal callers to make the same post-snap reads that are expected at the NFL level. To his credit, he still had to carve up opposing defenses and he made a habit of it. Hooker amassed 6,080 yards passing, 58 touchdowns and just five interceptions while completing 68.8 percent of his passes at Tennessee. That type of productivity gets you noticed quickly.
Hooker is a very consistent passer. His throwing motion is clean and his release is the same just about every time he releases the ball. He has the ability to push the ball down the field and has above average zip on his passes. He climbs the pocket well when given time. Hooker’s deep ball is one of the best in the class and he threw a ton of them this past season at Tennessee. He has great size, including massive hands, for the position. He also rarely turned the ball over in his college career. While he draws more attention for his throwing ability, Hooker is a much better runner than I anticipated. He accounted for over 2,000 rushing yards in his career, displaying good straight line speed and the ability to make defenders miss in the open field. His mobility allows him to extend plays and makes him an asset in zone read and RPO sets.
Despite the high completion percentage, accuracy is not Hooker’s strong suit. His ball placement is spotty and he is guilty of missing open looks. He certainly hits more than he misses, but the misses are noticeable on his film. Those issues make me think he is not a great fit for a West Coast style offense. Additionally, his throwing motion is a bit longer. I would love to see him tighten that up at the next level. Hooker was rarely asked to go through his progressions or throw into tight windows at Tennessee, both things he will need to do a lot of at the next level. He has a tendency to take off running when his first read is not there or he feels pressure rather than rolling out of the pocket to extend the play. I believe that can be fixed in time. His internal clock has room for improvement. Hooker is also guilty of having his footwork fail him. He will need to clean up his lower body mechanics. At his age, he has to be considered close to a finished product development wise. No telling how he will rebound from his major knee injury, which will likely cost him at least a part of his rookie season.
Hooker definitely has the arm talent to compete in the NFL, but the question remains if he can perform consistently enough to be an NFL starter. His physical traits and mental makeup make him an intriguing prospect. If he was a bit younger, I think he would have a stronger case for being the top quarterback taken in this draft class. He might take a little bit of time to adapt to the speed of the NFL and playing in a pro-style system, but the intangibles are there for him to become a solid NFL starter in the right situation.
Ideal scheme fit: Zone-read/RPO heavy scheme or spread offense
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