Former Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker is, without question, the Detroit Lions’ most interesting draft pick. Selected in the third round, Hooker’s range of possibilities with the Lions is the largest of any selection made this past April. While he’ll have a slow start to his NFL career—battling through ACL tear recovery and a steep learning curve from a simplistic Tennessee offense to the complexity of the NFL—his physical skillset and infectious leadership qualities give him a real shot to be special. That said, Jared Goff remains the unquestioned starter here in Detroit for 2023 and likely 2024, too.
So on Friday afternoon, we chatted with Tennessee writer Terry Lambert of Rocky Top Talk to give us a full breakdown of Hooker’s game. Just how simplistic was Tennessee’s offense? What physical tools does Hooker have, and which will need to be fine-tuned at the next level? How was Hooker able to ascend to “Volunteer legend” status so quickly?
All of that takes up the majority of our discussion.
But in the end, we all want to know one thing: Can Hooker’s realistic ceiling be NFL franchise quarterback?
“I really do (think so). I really do,” Lambert told us. “The age is one thing, 25 years old. The ACL is another. I don’t know if he’ll be ready to go (this year). He says he’ll be ready to go. I’m not sure, but I think he’s landed in a great spot. To sit behind Goff and be able to learn, take it easy in Year 1, I think his landing spot has helped him a ton this year.
“I think his floor is probably a high-end QB2. I saw a comp—I forgot who it was (who made it)—someone dropped a Geno Smith comp, and that makes a lot of sense. When you think about it, that West Virginia offense, how good he was in it, he kinda tumbled down into the second round. He was a high-level backup and now he’s a starter for the Seahawks. So I kinda see a trajectory on that scale. I like that Geno Smith comp a lot.
“But I’m inclined to bet on Hendon, the person. From everything I’ve seen over the past two years, it’s just hard to see that guy fail. I just really can’t see it.”
Check out our full conversation with Lambert below. And if you want to watch the 99-yard drive vs. Florida he references, jump to the 1:02:20 mark in this video.
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