3. Austin Hooper, Tight End
There’s one player everyone wants to see in Kevin Stefanski’s offense — and that’s the new tight end, Austin Hooper. Signed away from the Atlanta Falcons this offseason, Hooper gives the Browns a versatile threat at the position.
He’s good enough blocking in the run game to hold his own but he really shines as a pass-catcher. And he’s coming in off his best season as a pro after catching 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns. It’s that proficiency in the passing game that really has Cleveland fans excited about what Hooper can do with Stefanski and his play-action passing game.
Last season in Minnesota, Stefanski had veteran Kyle Rudolph and rookie Irv Smith, Jr. at tight end. While they didn’t light the world on fire with their receiving numbers, they were incredibly effective when targeted. Rudolph finished the year catching 39 of 48 targets (81.3 percent) for 367 yards and six touchdowns whereas Smith caught 36 of 47 (76.4 percent) for 311 yards and two scored.
Cleveland’s offense should be similar to what Stefanski showed in 2019 but there’s a belief he will throw more as the head coach than he did under Mike Zimmer with the Vikings.
Even if that’s not the case, Hooper’s ability to block and pose a threat is perfect for this offense — especially when it comes to plays in the red zone. As soon as teams are zeroed in on the running game, the Browns can sneak in a play-action and allow the big tight end to settle into a soft spot in the defense and make plays.