It looks like Hendon Hooker has made himself some serious money this season. And I’m not talking just about NIL deals.

Before the 2022 UT football campaign began, Tennessee’s senior quarterback was considered a mid-tier selection in the NFL Draft. Vol fans may have known the truth about Hooker but many analysts didn’t believe that he had what it takes to be a high-level NFL prospect. Then, we all saw Hooker’s phenomenal play against Florida, LSU, Alabama, and Kentucky and opinions have quickly changed.

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) via Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

On Thursday, notorious ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper said that Hooker has risen up his big board due to Hooker’s play this year. Kiper had this to say about the Vols’ signal-caller during an interview on Get Up…

“(Hooker) doesn’t have elite arm strength but he’s incredibly accurate and he doesn’t make mistakes. He does not throw interceptions. Game manager? More than that, this guy is a great decision-maker. What he’s done at Tennessee with Josh Heupel is unbelievable. … Hendon Hooker has moved, I think, into the late-first-round discussion. At worst he’s a second-rounder.”

You can see the full Kiper clip here. 

I might challenge that claim about Hooker’s arm strength but nonetheless, I’m happy to see the NFL media finally coming around to what Big Orange fans already knew. Hooker is one of the best quarterbacks in America. He’s considered the current front-runner for the Heisman trophy and he’s done nothing but play incredibly well in recent weeks. It’s high time that he got treated like the first-class talent that he is.

Featured image via Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK