Vikings

The Vikings Shouldn't Reach For Hendon Hooker

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are in a position where they need a quarterback of the future. While that could be current starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, it feels highly unlikely after extension talks broke down and the Vikings restructured his contract to add void years.

There have been a lot of talks about the Vikings potentially moving up to select a quarterback in the first round. The names C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, and Will Levis have all been mentioned because none of them are expected to be available at 23rd overall. However, Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker is almost certainly going to be there.

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah sent Hooker to the Vikings in the mock draft he dropped on Tuesday morning.

The Vikings have been doing their homework on this quarterback class. Hooker is well-liked around the league and he could sit for a year behind Kirk Cousins before taking over and ushering in a new era for Kevin O’Connell.

This is a really interesting tidbit from Jeremiah. It explains the why behind selecting Hooker in terms of process, and it makes total sense. The Vikings need a quarterback, and getting someone who needs to sit and learn for a year has a lot of merit. What his explanation doesn’t mention at all is who the player is.

Hooker is an interesting evaulation, but the Vikings need to stay away. At the very least, they cannot not take him in the first two rounds.

Let’s break down the player.

The good

Even though I am making the case against drafting Hooker high, it’s not because he’s a bad player. He throws a good football, especially deep. There are positives that make him intriguing. His deep ball is the main reason why people love him. Hooker knows how to layer the ball perfectly over the defender and give his receiver a chance to catch it without any contact.

Hooker also understands how to use leverage when throwing the deep ball. He throws this one over the outside shoulder to ensure that only his receiver gets a chance to attack the football.

It isn’t just the deep ball, Hooker is a dual-threat. He ran for 2,079 yards and 25 touchdowns in his college career. Tennessee deployed him as both a traditional running threat with QB power and in the veer and RPO game. That ability is someting NFL teams love to see in today’s game.

Even with his positives, the issues and red flags to me stand out more than anything. Let’s look at them.

Profile

While the good is something that NFL teams will like, there is plenty that is concerning. It starts with where he is at in life. Hooker is already 25 years old and will turn 26 next January 13th. Pair that with a torn ACL that he suffered in November against South Carolina, and he likely doesn’t play for you until he’s 26 and a half years old.

Drafting a player that is 25 makes things a little bit interesting. You want that player to be ready to play right away. 25 should be at the beginning of Hooker’s prime and, not even factoring in the injury, he has a long way to go. That’s a problem for me. How long is it going to take before Hooker is ready to see the field as your starting quarterback? One year? Two years? Three?

That’s fine for a player who is 21 when you draft them. They would start no later than age 24. For Hooker, getting his first starts potentially at age 27-28 is a scary proposition for a player you will need to select with a premium asset (first or second round pick). It’s not just about the whole picture of getting Hooker up to speed to be your starter, but it’s also about the why behind that.

Gimmicky offense

College football offenses are a different beast. A decade earlier, you had the NFL and subsequent media talking about the Air Raid not translating to the NFL because it was “gimmicky.” Now, we have seen multiple quarterbacks who ran the Air Raid with the most notable alums being Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray.

Josh Heupel‘s Tennessee offense isn’t like the Air Raid at all. It’s the Veer and Shoot, combining basic principles from the old school veer wishbone modernized with the RPO and base passing concepts of the Run and Shoot. That’s a nightmare for projection. The wide receivers line up outside the wide numbers. Paired with how incredibly different the spacing is, it changes everything for an offense. Let’s take a look at a couple of the basics.

Progressions don’t exist

The thing with the Veer and Shoot is that it takes thinking out of playing quarterback. Hooker isn’t asked to do anything more than read one player and make a decision. Here it’s a double slant concept. The inside receiver holds the linebacker for the outside receiver. In a vacuum, this is fine, but the offense is loaded with these types of decisions and are only half field reads at best.

The offense also gets guys in space. I will never discredit what an offensive coordinator does to get points on the board. However, it doesn’t do Hooker any favors in terms of projection to the next level. Below is a modified tunnel/mid screen with the two inside receivers in the bunch clearing out the defenders. That allows the receiver to catch on the run and turn up field. These kinds of plays are able to be made due to the spacing in college football and won’t be available to Hooker in the pros.

Let’s look at a common three play sequence from the offense. They utilize a lot of go balls, but they also do a lot of dink and dunk. These aren’t just short passing plays, they require nothing from Hooker other than do a jump flip with his hips and make a throw. These plays often get 10 yards and don’t really show an aptitude for the game at the next level. They also do a lot of RPO plays where Hooker needs to make a read. All of this gets used in the NFL. However, you don’t see any type of crossing routes, deep passing concepts like dagger or pin — the decisions are essentially made for him.

Poor technique

Hooker struggled in an offense that required him to be accurate underneath to maximize the quick game. His base is a little wonky. He sets himself almost with a jump and stands flat footed waiting for his single read to either come open or throws it right away. It’s a fascinating sight to see. That flat-footed stance doesn’t do him any favors in terms of accuracy. You can see that below when he misses those quick game throws, and it’s so frustrating. If you need to develop a lot of your full profile, I need to know that you can at least run quick game with efficiency. There were too many of these throws on his tape, including three in a row in the Pitt game.

Will Hooker be a good NFL player? I think he will be a solid backup for you over the next decade, especially with his running ability and big arm. Is he worth drafting in the first two rounds? I truly don’t think so. When I wrote up his scouting report, he got a high third-round grade, but I wouldn’t take him before day three. Why? He simply hasn’t shown the aptitude to win within structure the way you need to as an NFL quarterback.

One argument I saw on Twitter today was that you might have to trade up for Hooker so you don’t miss out on a quarterback. Well, the last time the Vikings did that, they drafted Christian Ponder at 12th overall in the best draft class this century. He wasn’t anywhere near a good value, but they felt that they needed a quarterback badly and they took the next guy. It ended up being a huge mistake, and they selected Teddy Bridgewater only three years later.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can’t make the same mistake. Take THE guy, not a guy because you feel the need to.

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