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I Don’t Always Draft Rookie Wide Receivers, But When I Do, They Are Big And Strong: Subtitle, Justifying My DeAndre Hopkins Love


I don’t draft rookie wide receivers in redraft leagues. Ever. The list of guys who have finished as starters at the position over the last decade is short and sometimes the rookies that did well weren’t predictable (meaning, worth drafting and not waiver wire monitoring). I wrote about how rookie WR’s struggle to produce, but found that it seemed that being bigger helped a rookie WR produce. For example, Tavon Austin’s (a much smaller, non-prototypical receiver) physical comps have never posted a fantasy usable season, while Hopkin’s compatriots have produced as rookies.

A.J Green and Julio Jones are particularly interesting examples. Like these two players, Hopkins was productive against SEC opponents. In one of my favorite pieces in Rotoviz history, Jon Moore detailed how Hopkins was on a short list with A.J and Julio as one of the most productive WR’s against SEC defenses. In fact, Julio and Hopkins averaged the exact same amount of yards per game (93.8) with Hopkins being far superior in touchdowns per game. For what it’s worth, Hopkins had the best final season in terms of yards per target and was the studliest of studs in the redzone.


After establishing production comparisons, it’s helpful to look at physical profile. Body type seems to have some predictive value for rookie WR production (we already know it does for long term projections), therefore Hopkins would need to have an impressive physicality to be relied up in redraft leagues.

Year Name College POS Height (in) Weight (lbs) 40 Yard Bench Press Vert Leap (in) Broad Jump (in) Shuttle 3Cone
2011 A.J. Green Georgia WR 76 211 4.48 18 34.5 126 4.21 6.91
2013 DeAndre Hopkins Clemson WR 73 214 4.57 15 36 115 4.5 6.83
2011 Julio Jones Alabama WR 75 220 4.34 17 38.5 135 4.25 6.66

Physically, Hopkins isn’t as gifted as Jones, but he is a reasonable comparison to Green. Both Green and Jones are laterally quicker, but Hopkins has an impressive vertical leap and has the needed height and weight to produce. No one is drafting Hopkins expecting him to be Julio or Green, and they shouldn’t, but seeing him in the same physical range as Green is promising.

But really, none of the production or physicality would matter without opportunity. This is where Hopkins shines. Unlike many rookie WR’s, he is already entrenched as a starter opposite a true All-Pro (much like Julio Jones), the arrow of that offense is actually shifting towards the pass. Star running back Arian Foster is suffering from back and leg injuries that are leading some to believe the Texans are ready to commit to a pass-first philsophy. Lance Zierlein of The Sideline View is a regular attendent at Houston practices. Amongst other positives, Zierlein noted during On The Couch With Sigmund Bloom that All-Pro corner Johnathan Jospeh was unable to handle Hopkins in redzone drills and after news of Foster’s injury become public, he tweeted a few interesting notes.

Rookie wide receivers struggle for a couple reasons. They aren’t big or strong enough to deal with the physicality of NFL defenders, they are often not in sync with their new quarterbacks, or they aren’t integrated into the offense. Hopkins’ SEC production and his size mean that dealing with NFL defenders probably isn’t going to be a huge problem. As far as offensive integration, the entire coaching staff has raved about Hopkins since they drafted him, all through OTA’s and training camp. His biggest issue getting on the field will probably be learning and committing to his assignments in Houston’s Zone Blocking Scheme. Unlike most offenses, Houston requires their receivers to be active and capable down the field blockers. If Hopkins can grasp that, there is no reason he won’t improve upon Houston’s historically lackluster WR2 numbers. Since 2007, Matt Schaub has targeted Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones 552 times and thrown a touchdown on only .05% of those throws.

Deandre Hopkins is much better than Walter and Jones and the Texans really believe they have something. Estimates from the organization place him around 60 receptions and at ADP of WR41, he isn’t too expensive for that production. In fact, that leaves room for some upside. In a dynasty context, acquire Hopkins while you can because once the games start to matter, the price is going to rise.

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