The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.
High Side by Justin Howe
It's currently in to knock DeAndre Hopkins' 2015 season as fluky or impossible to repeat. I disagree strongly with the first part – Hopkins is a fine No. 1 receiver – but I'm generally on board with the second. Hopkins is indeed a poor bet to approach his 111 catches or 1,521 yards, as the Texans don't look like the same team as when Hopkins compiled most of those numbers. But I remain a true believe in Hopkins' talent. He's awesome, and most importantly, he's awesome in the areas that matter most to fantasy owners.
Hopkins has taken well to the No. 1 spot vacated last year by Andre Johnson. His 58.3% career catch rate and 8.61 yards per target are strong when we consider (a) his volume (8.5 targets per game as a pro) and (b) the garbage parade of quarterbacks he's caught balls from in the NFL (Brian Hoyer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden, Tom Savage, B.J. Daniels). Those efficiency numbers aren't as remarkable as those of Antonio Brown or Julio Jones, but Hopkins is not the kind of receiver. He's big-play focused, targeted relentlessly with often poorly thrown balls and asked to create magic.
And he's been plenty efficient near the goal line. His usage from there isn't overwhelming in volume, but it's quite efficient. Over his three seasons, Hopkins has converted a solid 35.3% of his targets from inside the 10 into touchdowns. Most importantly, that rate has improved each year, even as defensive attention has shifted almost entirely to him. Last year, he turned 4 of his 7 short-yardage looks into scores – a stronger rate than Brown, Jones, or Odell Beckham Jr Jr. posted. Hopkins' catch and yardage totals probably aren't sustainable, but another year in double-digit touchdowns looks within reach.
The wild first half of Hopkins' 2015 probably isn't coming back. The Texans look like a noticeably better team, and they didn't pass nearly as much down the stretch. But Hopkins' market share in Houston remains dominant – his only competition for attention comes from two raw rookies, a battered and mediocre Cecil Shorts, and up-in-the-air second-year man Jaelen Strong. None look like major volume siphoners, and the team sends very few targets to its tight ends. Don't expect the moon and stars, but a line around 90-95 catches and 9 or 10 touchdowns is fair to project. He's firmly in play (and possibly the current leader) at the WR4 position in Round 1 of any draft.
Low Side by Chris Feery
Even without the drama of one of the shortest holdouts in recent memory, I felt that the DeAndre Hopkins was being slightly overvalued this offseason. The brief holdout helped confirm that feeling for me, and owners who are currently spending a Top 5 draft pick to acquire his services may rue that decision.
You may think I'm not sold on Hopkins as a player. Quite the contrary. He's clearly one of the most talented young wide receivers in the league, and I shudder to think what he would accomplish with a high-level quarterback tossing him the rock. What's that you say? The Texans upgraded the position this offseason? That's true, they did sign Brock Osweiler, but I'm not completely sold on Osweiler being that much of an upgrade over Brian Hoyer.
Yes, that Brian Hoyer, the one who imploded in the playoffs against the Kansas City Chiefs. Let's toss that game out the window for a moment, and just apply a simple eyeball test to the performance of both quarterbacks last season. They played in different schemes and with different levels of surrounding talent of course, but a basic eyeball test can tell you plenty of things that don't show up in the stat sheets and game logs.
For Hoyer, there were a handful of games in which he looked like a competent quarterback. He showed nice chemistry with Hopkins, played with a lot of heart, and seemed to be stretching his talents as far as they could go. Then there was another handful of games in which he looked completely lost, and it seemed certain that he would be bypassed on the depth chart if there was another viable option. That culminated in the debacle against the Chiefs, and the Texans went shopping in the offseason.
That led them to Osweiler, who offers up similar results on the eyeball test when looking at last season's live action. There were times that it appeared as if the torch had clearly been passed on over from Peyton Manning, and other times in which he also looked completely lost. The Texans are banking on the former being the case more often than not, but I'm not convinced that happens.
Osweiler may develop into a solid starter down the road, but there's no way that happens without some serious growing pains. By adding a brief Hopkins holdout and apparent unhappiness to the mix, those pains could become even more painful. A quarterback learning a new system needs as many reps as possible with his top target during training camp and the preseason. We'll assume Hopkins is now in camp for the long haul - but what if he's not? The NFL season goes by in the blink of an eye, and live regular season games are not the time or the place to be getting on the same page in terms of timing. Hopkins will get his targets, but an offense that is sputtering along at less than optimal efficiency may not provide him with much room to work with.
As the season approaches the halfway point, things may start to settle in for the Texans offense. I would expect Hopkins to have a solid second half that somewhat makes up for disappointing results in the first half of the season, but not enough to justify a Top 5 draft pick. Simply put, I wouldn't waste a high draft pick on Hopkins, but I wouldn't rule out trying to snag him in a trade from a frustrated owner on the cheap in anticipation of a second half resurgence.