Quick Hit: Hayden Hurst Replaces Hooper


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Quick Hit: Hayden Hurst Replaces Hooper

After letting Austin Hooper walk in free agency (link), the Falcons traded their 2nd and 5th-round picks in 2020 to the Ravens in exchange for Hayden Hurst (and a 4th-round pick). While Hurst’s playing time was limited with Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle blocking him on the depth chart in Baltimore, he will be an every-down player for Atlanta.

With the Falcons starting tight end gig all to himself, Hurst is walking into at least 75 targets in 2020 after Hooper saw 6.4 passing looks per game over the last two seasons (102-target full-season pace). Hooper finished as the TE4 and TE9 (in PPR points per game) over the last two seasons with Atlanta.

Hurst’s fantasy stock obviously skyrockets in Atlanta.

Going from the most run-heavy offense in the NFL to a pass-first team is the most glaring positive for Hurst. Over the last two seasons, Atlanta has led the NFL in pass attempts (1,394) while Baltimore is 3rd from last (1,054).

Granted, it was on significantly less volume, but Hurst has offered more after the catch and is more of a vertical threat downfield than Hooper. Among the 46 tight ends with 60 or more targets over the last two years, Hurst ranks 18th in yards after the catch (5.1) and 19th in air yards per target (8.5) while Hooper is a lowly 40th in YAC (3.7) and his targets only traveled 7 yards in air (31st-of-46).

This past season, Hurst ranked 8th in yards gained per route run behind only George Kittle, Andrews, Darren Waller, Tyler Higbee, Travis Kelce, Jared Cook, and Irv Smith (Hooper was 14th).

Hurst will be 27 by the time the 2020 season starts — he tried to make it to Major League Baseball out of college — but it’s hard not to get excited about his fit with the Falcons. Hurst has flashed explosive ability, he has 4.65 40-yard-dash wheels at 250lbs (80th percentile), and joins an incredibly fantasy-friendly team with a direct path to full-time usage. Hurst will likely end up as a top-10 tight end in average draft position this summer.

On the flip side, Hurst getting dealt to Atlanta also boosts Mark Andrews’ fantasy stock. After breaking out for 64/852/10 (TE5 finish) at 23-years-old last year, Andrews will have a great chance to improve on those numbers in 2020. Hurst’s departure quietly leaves behind 10% of Ravens targets from last year and it should make Andrews an every-down player. Last season, Andrews led Ravens tight ends in routes run (19.7 per game) but Hurst was still heavily involved (12.9 routes per game). Andrews was still dominant in a somewhat part-time role in his sophomore campaign because Lamar Jackson threw to his tight ends more often than any quarterback in the NFL last year.

Overall, Andrews ran a route on just 57% of Jackson’s dropbacks last season -- which ranked 17th-of-37 among all qualified tight ends. That figure is surely going to grow this coming season. For reference, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and Zach Ertz all ran a pass route on at least 80% of their team’s pass plays.

I’m incredibly bullish on Andrews in fantasy football this season and over the next 3-4 years. Andrews flashed a high ceiling in 2019 and will be a full-time player with only Nick Boyle around to steal targets. Andrews is my No. 3 tight end for season-long drafts this summer behind only Kelce and Kittle and I’d try to aggressively acquire Andrews in dynasty/keeper formats.

Graham Barfield blends data and film together to create some of the most unique content in the fantasy football industry. Barfield is FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and formerly worked for the NFL Network, Fantasy Guru, and Rotoworld.