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Seahawks Draft: Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker similar to Geno Smith?

Feb 22, 2023, 9:47 AM | Updated: 10:28 am

Seahawks draft Hendon Hooker...

Hendon Hooker of the Tennessee Volunteers looks to pass against the Missouri Tigers on November 12, 2022. (Donald Page/Getty Images)

(Donald Page/Getty Images)

In his first mock draft of the offseason, ESPN’s Matt Miller has the Seahawks taking a quarterback – just not in the first round.

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In Miller’s two-round mock draft, he has Seattle using one of its two second-round picks on Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, a 2022 first-team All-SEC selection and the conference’s offensive player of the year. (Miller’s full mock draft can be found at this link, but note that it requires an ESPN Plus membership.)

Hooker is an interesting prospect as he has NFL size at 6 foot 4 and 220 pounds and put up massive numbers for the Volunteers. The issues, though, are that he is one of the older prospects in the draft at 25, and he suffered a torn ACL late in his final college season.

Despite those concerns, Miller thinks Hooker has the ability to be an NFL starting quarterback.

“I like Hendon Hooker. And I may be an outlier here. I haven’t talked to a lot of NFL people about him because he is older – he’s 25 – he is coming off a knee injury, so he’s not a guy that gets talked about a lot,” Miller said to Mike Salk during Tuesday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports.

So what does Hooker do well?

“I look at what he did at Tennessee the last two years and he is a fantastic deep ball thrower, he moves very well in the pocket, he does not turn the ball over,” Miller said.

Hooker, who finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting in 2022, threw for over 6,000 yards and completed 68.6% of his passes in two years at Tennessee while throwing 58 touchdowns to just five interceptions. Hooker also rushed for over 1,000 yards with five touchdowns in those two seasons for the Volunteers.

Hooker’s high completion rate and ability to not turn the ball over was especially impressive, Miller said, due to the style of offense he played in, which he described as a “vertical tempo offense.”

“That’s not like throwing checkdowns and screens. That is attacking down the field,” he said.

Additionally, Miller said, Hooker’s play didn’t dip when his No. 1 receiver went down.

“He might be 26 years old when it happens, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hendon Hooker starts in the NFL just because he’s accurate, he understands leverage and understands timing and sets these guys up to make plays after the catch,” Miller said. “If he were 22 and healthy, I think we’d be talking about a first-round quarterback instead of a second- or third-round guy.”

When hearing Miller describe Hooker’s deep-ball ability and lack of turnovers, Salk said that sounded like a quarterback Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll would want. But he wasn’t sure if that is what Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron would seek as Waldron comes from an LA Rams system that prioritizes the middle of the field and quicker more intermediate throws.

“I think he’s capable of that. What’s exciting to me is is the deep ball. So is not turning the ball over while being aggressive down the field,” Miller said, also noting that Hooker has shown he can pass with rhythm and timing while at Tennessee.

The Seahawks likely have their 2023 starter already in Geno Smith, who was a Pro Bowler in 2022. While Smith is a pending free agent, it’s widely expected he will return either on a new contract or on the franchise tag.

But part of why Hooker makes sense for the Seahawks as a Day 2 pick, Miller said, is he has a similar skillset to Smith.

“I don’t know that he’s that dissimilar from Geno Smith. I know Geno doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he throws a beauty as far as the deep ball goes. He has that nice arc on it,” Miller said. “… I think Hendon is very similar in that he’s also a guy who’s not super big, but (he’s) just tough and smart in the pocket. We’ll see what happens. (The Seahawks’) quarterback depth chart there is empty as of right now, so let’s hope some guys get re-signed. But (Hooker) is the type of player from what I’ve heard that you want that in your locker room, as well. Just a really, really good leader and everybody loved him.”

Listen to the full interview with Miller at this link or in the player below.

More Seahawks offseason coverage from Seattle Sports

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Hawks Draft: Ohio State announcer talks stars Stroud, Smith-Njigba
GM John Schneider shares insight into how he picks pro days to attend
Bumpus: Parkinson will see big boost in production for Seahawks in 2023

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