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Player Spotlight: DeAndre Hopkins

A detailed examination at DeAndre Hopkins' fantasy prospects for 2016

A World Class Consolation Prize

Early ADP data shows the consensus top three picks are a trio of wide receivers: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr.  DeAndre Hopkins is the "consolation prize" for those who don't get a top 3 pick. He's been the #4 receiver drafted in the vast majority of early drafts.

ADP (As of 7/25/2016)

ADPFirstLastTeamPos
1 Antonio Brown PIT/8 WR1
2 Odell Beckham NYG/8 WR2
3 Julio Jones ATL/11 WR3
4 LeVeon Bell PIT/8 RB1
5 Todd Gurley LA/8 RB2
6 DeAndre Hopkins HOU/9 WR4
7 David Johnson ARI/9 RB3
8 Adrian Peterson MIN/6 RB4
9 Ezekiel Elliott DAL/7 RB5
10 Rob Gronkowski NE/9 TE1
11 A.J. Green CIN/9 WR5
12 Dez Bryant DAL/7 WR6

Ending the Quarterback Carousel

DeAndre Hopkins has had more quarterbacks than the Beatles have had hits.

Looking at this collection of signal callers makes what Hopkins has accomplished in three seasons ASTOUNDING.

  • 2013 -- 91 targets/52 receptions for 802 yards and 2 touchdowns (WR49)
  • 2014 -- 127 targets/76 receptions for 1,210 yards and 6 touchdowns (WR15)
  • 2015 -- 192 targets/111 receptions for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns (WR6)

In Osweiler We Trust?

The Texans prioritized the quarterback position in free agency, and G.M. Rick Smith believes he's solved the revolving door by signing Brock Osweiler away from the Denver Broncos.  The Texans gave Osweiler a 4-year, $72 million contract with $37 million in guarantees. That's an ENORMOUS amount of money for a player who started seven games in four NFL seasons. On the surface, signing a young signal caller from the defending Super Bowl champions makes a ton of sense given the revolving door of journeyman and also-rans that have lined up under center in the last three seasons. Yet, there are reasons to question the Texans' wisdom here:

  1. John Elway let Osweiler walk -- Is there a better personnel executive in the NFL right now than John Elway? The Hall of Fame quarterback put together a dominant roster on both sides of the ball and yet didn't balk at letting Osweiler leave in free agency. Ask yourself this question, how often does an NFL team let a young starting quarterback leave in free agency? It's VERY rare. Particularly in a season when their long-time starter opted for retirement.
  2. John Elway let Osweiler walk for Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch -- It's one thing to decide Osweiler wasn't worth the asking price, but Elway has replaced him with a raw, athletic rookie and MARK SANCHEZ.
  3. Osweiler lost his job to (an old, beaten up, ineffective version of) Peyton Manning -- Manning averaged 225 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs per game but the team opted for him in the playoff run over Osweiler
  4. He only threw multiple touchdowns twice in seven starts -- In today's NFL, throwing 1 or fewer touchdowns in 5 of 7 starts is discouraging
  5. He only started 7 games -- That's a tiny sample size to command $18mm per season

The 2015 Frankenstein's Monster at Quarterback Was Surprisingly Effective

The names Hoyer, Mallett, Yates and Weeden are not going to keep defensive coordinators up at night, but that quartet combined for respectable passing numbers last season:

  • 358 completions
  • 619 attempts
  • 57.8% completion rate
  • 4,079 yards
  • 29 touchdowns
  • 12 interceptions
  • 32 rushes
  • 72 rushing yards
  • 2 rushing touchdowns
  • 327 fantasy points
The Texans 2015 "Franken-Quarterback" would have ranked QB15 last year.
 
Should we consider Osweiler an upgrade? With only seven career starts and an entirely different supporting cast, it's almost impossible to credibly project Osweiler's new baseline of production. But for the sake of discussion, let's assume Osweiler can sustain his career metrics for an entire 16-game season:
 
  • Career 61.3% completion rate
  • Career 3.6% TD rate
  • Career 7.0 yards per attempt
  • Career 2.2% INT rate

Last year the Texans threw the ball 619 times, but if things go according to plan, they will throw less this year. The team signed Lamar Miller in free agency and want to emphasize the ground game. Let's assume the Texans pass less...I currently have them throwing 560 times.

  • 560 attempts
  • 343 completions (keeping Osweiler's 61.3% completion rate intact)
  • 20 touchdowns (3.6% TD rate)
  • 3,920 passing yards (7.0 Yards per Attempt)
  • 12 interceptions

In summary, Brock Osweiler is going to have to improve all of his career metrics in order to match last year's "Franken-Quarterback" output.

Hopkins is Quarterback Proof, but Many Factors Point to Last Year Being a Peak Season

  1. Brock Osweiler is not necessarily an improvement over last year's quarterback quartet (although the team certainly expects him to take a big leap forward given their financial commitment)
  2. The Texans are unlikely to throw as often in 2016
  3. Lamar Miller was added to revitalize the ground game
  4. The Texans added Will Fuller and Braxton Miller to the receiving corps
  5. Hopkins was targeted nearly 200 times last year, the 6th most by anyone in the last 10 years

 Most Targets, Single Season (2006-2015)

RankFirstLastYearTargets
1 Calvin Johnson 2012 204
2 Julio Jones 2015 203
3 Reggie Wayne 2012 195
4 Antonio Brown 2015 193
5 Brandon Marshall 2012 192
6 DeAndre Hopkins 2015 191
7 Demaryius Thomas 2014 184
8 Andre Johnson 2013 181
9 Pierre Garcon 2013 181
10 Brandon Marshall 2008 181
11 Antonio Brown 2014 181
12 Roddy White 2011 179
13 Roddy White 2010 177
14 Demaryius Thomas 2015 177
15 Wes Welker 2012 175
16 Reggie Wayne 2010 175
17 Wes Welker 2011 173
18 Brandon Marshall 2015 172
19 Andre Johnson 2009 171
20 Brandon Marshall 2007 170
21 Andre Johnson 2008 170
22 T.J. Houshmandzadeh 2007 169
23 Antonio Brown 2013 167
24 Jarvis Landry 2015 167
25 Larry Fitzgerald 2007 167

Positives

  • Hopkins has improved each season, and emerged as an elite (WR6) receiver last year in spite of a quartet of forgettable quarterbacks at the helm
  • The Texans signed Brock Osweiler to a 4-year, $72 million contract with a belief he will solve the revolving door at quarterback
  • Physically Hopkins has both the speed and catch radius to dominate against any defensive back

Negatives

  • The Texans have re-committed to the running game with a bolstered offensive line and the acquisition of Lamar Miller  (fewer pass attempts)
  • Coming off one of the most targeted seasons in the last decade, it's hard to imagine Hopkins maintains his target/game output
  • Houston added several young receivers in the NFL draft

Projections

YEAR GRSHYDTDTARGRECYDTDFumL
2013 HOU 16 0 0 0 91 52 802 2 1
2014 HOU 16 0 0 0 127 76 1210 6 1
2015 HOU 16 0 0 0 192 111 1521 11  
2016 PROJ-Dodds 16 0 0 0   100 1370 9 1
2016 PROJ-Henry 16 0 0 0   104 1470 10 0
2016 PROJ-Wood 16 0 0 0   105 1450 9 0
2016 PROJ-Tremblay 16 0 0 0   108 1463 8 1

Final Thoughts

I don't want it to seem like I'm a DeAndre Hopkins detractor. He's shown steady improvement and the film shows a well-rounded, all purpose receiving threat. The only question we need to ask ourselves is whether Hopkins should be the consensus WR4 -- which implies IMPROVEMENT from last season's breakout year. How can Hopkins realistically improve this year if his team is going to throw less? If his team has better complementary receivers? If Lamar Miller is to become the centerpiece of the offense? If Brock Osweiler doesn't take several steps forward versus last year's 7-game stretch as a starter? There are plenty of ways for Hopkins to fall a bit short of last year's volumes. That doesn't mean he's not an elite player and worthy of fantasy WR1 status. It does mean that you should consider an elite running back instead of Hopkins if you're drafting in the middle of the first round, though.

Other Viewpoints

Rotoworld's Evan Silva denoted Hopkins' splits when the Texans defense stiffened in the second half:

DeAndre Hopkins' game reached new heights post-Andre Johnson last season, finishing third in the NFL in receptions (111), receiving yards (1,521), and first-down catches (83), and seventh in touchdown grabs (11) and 20-plus-yard receptions (19). A route technician with elite ball skills, Hopkins is one of the NFL's toughest receivers to cover. There was a mildly concerning split inside his third-year breakout, though. Whereas Hopkins posted an absurd 133-1,774-11.4 receiving pace with the Texans allowing an average of 28.4 points per game in the initial seven weeks, his pace stats fell to 94-1,324-10.7 as Houston's defense stiffened, holding its last nine opponents to a 12.7-point weekly average. That final nine-game pace still would have made Hopkins last year's overall WR7 in both PPR and non-PPR scoring, and he was the WR9 in points per game from Week 8 on. While the best 2016 projection for Houston's defense probably lies somewhere in between last year's splits, this is a case where I believe we shouldn't overthink. Hopkins is a premier talent worth consideration beginning in the mid-first round of drafts.

Rotoworld's Ray Summerlin remarks on Hopkins being ineffective in the red-zone last year relative to other 10+ TD producers:

13 receivers or tight ends scored double-digit touchdowns last year. Of those 13, only Ted Ginn and Allen Hurns had fewer than 15 red-zone targets, and the group averaged just under 20 red-zone looks. DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown were the only two who converted less than a third of their targets, and they managed to score on 26 percent and 32 percent of their red-zone looks respectively. More tellingly, of the 15 players who saw 20 red-zone targets last year, only three had fewer than seven touchdowns. The group averaged 9.3 scores.

Our own Sigmund Bloom views Hopkins as overrated:

Hopkins was magnificent last year, but a good part of his numbers came when the Texans were a losing team and playing from behind. Unless you expect that happen a lot again this year, or you think the Texans wide recievers will actually get worse swapping Nate Washington for a second-year Jaelen Strong and first-round deep threat Will Fuller, or you think Brock Osweiler is a big upgrade from Brian Hoyer, it's difficult to see Hopkins reproducing his 2015 numbers even if he plays better than he did in 2016.