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Hendon Hooker draft profile: Stats, scouting report and NFL projection

Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker was one of the breakout stars of the 2020 college football season and a Heisman Trophy finalist before he suffered a torn ACL. While the injury impacted his draft stock, there is still a promising future for him in the NFL.

Hooker is a testament to how an athlete’s future can change by transferring to another college. Just a few years ago, he likely wasn’t on the NFL radar and there were questions about him even being a starting-caliber quarterback in the SEC.

Now, Hooker is poised to be a Day 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. While he is several tiers below the likes of Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson or Will Levis, Hooker is a promising talent with no shortage of fans in the NFL.

Hendon Hooker measurables

  • Hendon Hooker height: 6-foot-3
  • Hendon Hooker weight: 217 pounds
  • Hendon Hooker hand size: 10.5 inches
  • Hendon Hooker age: 25 years old

Let’s dive into our Hendon Hooker draft profile and scouting report.

Hendon Hooker stats and background

NFL: Combine
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

After starring at Dudley High School in North Carolina, quarterback Hendon Hooker went into the 2017 recruiting cycle as a four-star recruit. Rated by 247 Sports as the 337th-best player in the country and No. 11 among dual-threat quarterbacks, Hooker joined the Virginia Tech Hokies.

Related: Bryce Young draft profile and scouting report

While he showed some promising flashes as a passer, Hooker never quite put it all together. After splitting time with Braxton Burmeister, Hooker transferred to Tennessee where he would compete with Joe Milton to become the Volunteers’ quarterback. While Milton opened the season as the starter, Hooker took over in Week 2 against Pittsburgh and just kept improving from that point on.

Hendon Hooker statsQB RatingTD – INTCompletion %RushingPFF Grade
2019 (VT)165.813-261.1356 yards72.1
2020 (VT)153.59-565.3620 yards81.5
2021 (UT)181.431-368616 yards84.4
2022 (UT)175.527-269.6430 yards90.8
Hendon Hooker statistics via PFF and CFBR

He delivered one of the best seasons by a Tennessee quarterback ever. Not only did Hooker lead the Vols to their first win over Alabama in more than a decade, he also set the program record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (19). If not for a torn ACL against South Carolina, he likely wins the Heisman Trophy and Tennesse might’ve made it to the College Football Playoff.

Related: Anthony Richardson draft profile, scouting report

Hendon Hooker scouting report

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

One of the more remarkable things about Hooker is how much year-to-year improvement he demonstrated at Tennessee. The throwing mechanics were cleaned up considerably as he gained more reps, helping improve both his accuracy and the rhythm in which he executed the offense.

Hooker checks off a lot of boxes that NFL teams want. He boasts the size, frame and athleticism that you’ll find in a majority of starting quarterbacks today. At his best, Hooker also has one of the nicest deep balls in the class with natural loft on the ball and some excellent touch when everything is right. The arm strength won’t be a limiting factor at the next level, he can make any throw that is asked of him based on what the game plan calls for.

He is also a very effective quarterback from both a clean pocket and when blitzed. He does a nice job keeping his eyes downfield and executing what’s asked of him. If extra defenders come, he can read it quickly and make the throw to the vacant space or use his athleticism to extend the play and throw downfield or pick up the first down with his legs.

Hooker also does an excellent job at protecting the football and taking what the defense gives him. While that might not seem important, coaches like a young quarterback who doesn’t take unnecessary risks and sticks to the script. While Hooker is still a developmental quarterback, one who lacks any familiarity with pro-style offenses, there are traits that could at least help him if asked to come into the game in case of an injury.

  • Hendon Hooker stats vs pressure (2022): 57.6 PFF grade, 51.2% completion, 2-1 TD-INT, 6.9 yards per attempt, 79.4 NFL QB rating
  • Hendon Hooker vs clean pocket (2022): 91.8 PFF grade, 71.7% completion, 25-1 TD-INT, 9.8 yards per attempt, 130.2 NFL QB rating

We’ll put some of these numbers into perspective. Hooker posted the fourth-highest passer rating, the 10th-highest ypa and the 13th-highest PFF grade from a clean pocket among all college quarterbacks. Hooker had a higher passer rating when protected than Young (120.4).

The problem, obviously, is what happened when defenses created penetration in the backfield and the game against the Georgia Bulldogs is proof. Hooker took six sacks and encounter more than a dozen pressures against a defense with several future NFL starters. He finished with a 53.2 ESPN QBR, recording 195 passing yards on 33 attempts with one interception.

  • Hendon Hooker vs blitz: 75.9 PFF grade, 8-0 TD-INT, 63% completion, 116.6 QB rating

While Hooker finished with the second-most touchdown passes (13) on deep throws this season and earned a 93.4 PFF grade on vertical throws, his accuracy varies. For every two rainbow balls that drop right in a receiver’s hands, there would be one way off the mark. The arm strength and touch are clearly there, but he can get a bit erratic at times.

Hooker was also relatively pedestrian on intermedia throws, the bread-and-butter for a lot of NFL quarterbacks. On passes between 10-19 yards downfield, he completed just 54.1% of his attempts and it’s important to keep in mind Heupel’s scheme creates a lot of openings on the field.

Tennessee’s offense is also a huge knock on Hooker. Nearly everything he did was schemed up, with the Volunteers taking advantage of the width of a college football field and exploiting athletic advantages Hooker won’t benefit from in the NFL. He rarely displayed that he can progress through his reads at Tennessee and he threw into a lot of open windows.

There’s also the matter of his age. Hooker will be a 25-year-old rookie quarterback, just a year younger than Lamar Jackson and only two months younger than Justin Herbert. It plays into his limited ceiling and diminishes his long-term value.

Statistics courtesy of College Football Reference, ESPN and Pro Football Focus

  • Hendon Hooker draft grade: 74/100
  • Hendon Hooker draft projection: Top-50

Hendon Hooker NFL projection

NCAA Football: Music City Bowl-Purdue at Tennessee
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Any NFL team that drafts Hooker knows he won’t make a real impact in 2023. While quarterbacks can return from a torn ACL within a year, the organization that spends a top-75 pick on Hooker will want to protect him as a long-term investment.

Treating his rookie season as a redshirt year might be the best thing for him. While it does mean he wouldn’t make his first NFL start until he’s 26 years old at the earliest, 2023 can be all about learning the finer points of NFL offense.

Hooker’s mechanics don’t need a lot of tweaking, so he doesn’t need to be on his feet and going through physical reps to learn. Instead, it can be all about the mental repetitions as he observes from the sidelines, in meetings and in the film room.

A spot like the New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions or Minnesota Vikings feels perfect for him. Hooker gets the benefit of working with a great coaching staff and can be mentored by a veteran quarterback who has gone through everything a quarterback in pro football experiences.

As long as he develops, Hooker could become a mid-tier starting quarterback who makes a few plays every game with his legs and arm. In the best-case scenario, Hooker is starting NFL games in 2024 and becomes a top-20 quarterback by 2025. That’s an outstanding outcome for a player who seemingly didn’t have a future in the NFL after two seasons at Virginia Tech.