Fantasy Football Player Profile: DeAndre Hopkins
The game of fantasy football is a lot like a roller coaster. We wait all offseason to get on the ride, and then when we get on it, we get sick. It’s got its ups and downs, but for some, the ride is much scarier, with a lot more twists and turns. DeAndre Hopkins is among the top of that list, which is why it’s extremely tough to justify his average draft position of 28th overall right now.
Trending in the Wrong Direction
Going back to his 2014 season when he started to overtake Andre Johnson as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, totaling 1,210 yards and six touchdowns on 127 targets. His 9.5 yards per target was by far the best of his career, and it ranked 10th among the 59 wide receivers who saw at least 80 targets. Since that time, it’s taken a turn for the worse, finishing 29th of 48 in 2015 and then 53rd of 60 in 2016.
The argument to this point is that his quarterback play was among the worst in the NFL, and while I’m not here to dispute that, most seem to have forgotten who he played with in prior seasons. His targets over his career have come from Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Tom Savage, Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, and T.J. Yates. While I understand that you’d probably take some of these guys over Brock Osweiler, they’re all in the same territory, with the exception of Hoyer, who is consistently underrated.
The point was that Hopkins was able to overcome subpar quarterback play earlier in his career, while he’s struggled since becoming the focal point of the offense. When splitting the two, there is a massive difference in his per target production. In his 34 games with Johnson, Hopkins averaged 9.33 yards per target, while it’s been 6.99 in the 30 games without him. This is a real problem when looking at the top wide receivers in fantasy from 2016:
|4||Odell Beckham Jr||8.09||195.6|
As you can see, there were just three wide receivers who finished inside the top-24 while totaling less than 7.14 yards per target, and just one inside the top-16. That was Michael Crabtree, who scored eight touchdowns. It’s highly unlikely that you can find a sensible way to project Hopkins for eight or more touchdowns, considering his projected starting quarterback Tom Savage has still yet to throw a touchdown pass on 92 pass attempts. It’s quite possible that, gulp, Osweiler is a better quarterback. I know, not what you want to hear, but stats are stats and facts are facts. Hopkins being drafted as the 11th receiver off the board isn’t making much sense considering these facts, right?
Yards After the Catch
There are some wide receivers who can overcome bad quarterback play because they’re dynamic after the catch, but this is another area where Hopkins has struggled. After posting just 1.9 yards after the catch in 2015, which was the worst in the NFL among those with more than 40 targets, he posted 3.2 yards after the catch in 2016, which still ranked towards the bottom of the league. This is another category in which he was a lot better with Andre Johnson on the field. This is likely due to seeing second-tier cornerbacks in coverage, whereas now he’s seeing the best the opponent has to offer.
Just How Inefficient?
Would you say that Terrelle Pryor had bad quarterback play last year? How about Demaryius Thomas? Kelvin Benjamin? They all had subpar quarterback play in 2016, but just how bad was Hopkins’ season? Well, there have been 60 instances where a wide receiver has seen at least 140 targets over the last five years. Of those 60 wide receivers, just four finished outside the top 30 wide receivers. The other three players were all 29 years of age or older, while Hopkins was supposed to be in the prime of his career at age-24. It’s also important to note that Hopkins saw 151 targets, which was more than enough to qualify, and he finished as the No. 36 wide receiver.
Looking a bit closer at his game log in 2016, Hopkins actually totaled 236 yards of his 954 yards (25 percent) in two games. 113 yards and a touchdown (one of his four on the season) came against the Chiefs in Week 2 and then 123 yards came against the Titans and their inept secondary in Week 17, when it didn’t even matter to fantasy players. That game against the Chiefs was his only WR1 performance of the season, and here are some of the names who had at least two WR1 performances in 2016: Jeremy Kerley, Dontrelle Inman, Will Fuller, Kendall Wright, and Tavon Austin.
After hearing all the facts on Hopkins above, it’s easy to understand why I’m hesitant to draft Hopkins as a top 20 wide receiver, let alone top-12 (which is where he’s going). Whichever way the Texans go, either Savage or rookie Deshaun Watson, they’re likely to lean on the run a lot more than they did in the previous two seasons. Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar recently wrote an article on how rookie quarterback play affects pass catchers (you can read that article here), but in short, it’s not good at all for wide receivers, as there have been just five top-12 wide receivers attached to rookie quarterbacks since 2001.
In my initial set of projections, Hopkins popped up as my No. 17 wide receiver, right in between Davante Adams and Brandin Cooks. But if you were to give me just one fantasy team and I had to pick between them, I’d take either of them over Hopkins, as they both have much more reliable quarterback situations. If you own Hopkins in a dynasty league and you’re able to sell for top dollar with the hope that Watson pans out, I might do that. Hopkins might just be better suited as a No. 2 wide receiver than the No. 1 that he’s being relied on to be.
If you’ve missed any of the other Player Profiles that have gone up, you can see the full list right here.