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How Hendon Hooker injury will affect NFL draft stock

The Tennessee senior tore his ACL on Saturday. How will that affect his draft stock in 2023?

Missouri v Tennessee Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker tore his ACL in the Volunteers’ second-to-last game of the season, ending his four-year career as a starter on a particularly painful note, especially given the Vols’ brutal loss to South Carolina.

Hooker’s senior season has been nothing short of miraculous — aside from, of course, this weekend’s game and UT’s loss to Georgia earlier this month. Hooker has been in talks as one of the top quarterback picks of the 2023 class, but this type of injury this late in the season will almost certainly affect his draft stock, despite what he has proved on the field.

Early projections had Hooker going in the first or second round of the 2023 NFL Draft behind CJ Stroud, Bryce Young, and potentially Will Levis, but we can expect him to drop on mock drafts in the coming months. Full, NFL-play-ready recovery from an ACL tear can be between nine and 12 months and can have lasting effects on a player’s lateral movement and ability to accelerate.

If Hooker had surgery tomorrow, this would have him potentially ready between August and November of next year. He would miss preseason activities and perhaps even the first half of his rookie season, so we can essentially guarantee that he won’t go to a team with an immediate need for a QB.

He could be an investment pick, but that designation could move him as low as the fourth or fifth round, depending on how reports of his recovery turn out. The good news for Hooker is that he’s part of a relatively weak QB draft class outside of Stroud and Young.

Hooker led the Vols to a program comeback alongside head coach Josh Heupel, transferring from Virginia Tech to start for UT over the last two seasons. He went 14-6 in his two years there with a signature win over Alabama this year. In 2022, he has completed 229 passes for 3,135 yards and 27 touchdowns with just two interceptions.