Making The Case
Case 1:

by Hayden Gibson

Taking DeAndre Hopkins as the top WR

DeAndre Hopkins | WR | #10 | Houston Texans

Height: 6'1"

Weight: 218

Bye Week: 9

2015 Stats:

Rec: 111

Rec Yards: 1,521

Rec Touchdowns: 11

Standard Rank:  4th

PPR Rank:  4th
DeAndre Hopkins was one of the top receivers in 2015 and one of the most explosive players in the league.  The most impressive thing about Hopkins' production last year and the previous year for that matter is he has always had subpar quarterback play each year.  In 2015 Hopkins had 111 grabs, accumulated just over 1,500 yards, and scored 11 touchdowns with the combination of Bryan Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates, and Branden Weeden under center.  What makes his 2015 season even more impressive was the fact the Texans had little to no running game in the majority of the season due to Arian Foster's achilles blowing out.  This gave defenses the opportunity to lock in on Hopkins, but he typically found a way to remain productive.  The Texans made two big signings this off season to help improve their offense by bringing in QB Brock Osweiler and RB Lamaar Miller.  They also drafted Will Fuller who is a guy that will be able to stretch the field.    In order to buy into Hopkins topping the list of wide receivers you have to see Osweiler as a significant upgrade from the platoon the Texans had last year.  Yes the evidence is very limited since Osweiler has only started 7 or 8 games in his career and in the majority of those games his main task was not lose the game.  However, Osweiler did show some flashes including the big win against the Patriots and a three touchdown performance against the Steelers cupcake defense.  I am buying into the argument that Osweiler will lead to more quality targets for Hopkins which will likely lead to an improvement in his catch rate making him a more efficient player.  There is also hope that Miller will allow this offense to be a little more balanced which would make defenses respect the run opening up more play action opportunities.  The improvement to the running game may lead to a regression in targets for Hopkins, but I will take less targets overall in order to have more quality targets.  An improved running game could lead to safeties paying more attention to the RB resulting in more deep balls for Hopkins and he has proven to be an exceptional deep ball receiver.  Not only will safeties have to keep an eye in the backfield they also have to deal with Fuller.  Fuller is not the most natural pass catcher but he has the speed to occupy a safety.  If he shows the ability to beat man coverage early teams will be forced to play a safety over the top.  All of this could lead to Hopkins getting less double teams and Fuller stretching the field will allow Hopkins to work more underneath routes so we could see a bump in the 111 receptions he had last year.

  I think realistically the only WRs ranked ahead of Hopkins should be Antonio Brown, O'Dell Beckham, and Julio Jones.  Antonio Brown has been the best receiver in the league for the past two years.  He is one of the best route runners in the league has fantastic hands and happens to play on the league's best offense.  However, a lot of Brown's value is dependent on Big Ben being under center as we all seen Brown struggle to find a groove with the backups when Big Ben was injured.  We all know that Big Ben's playing style is very physical.  He is not a mobile QB like Cam but still take a lot of punishment since he refuses to give the defense an easy sack.  This often leads to Roethlisberger being nicked up throughout the season and like last year he could miss some time.  Another variable will be the health of Le'Veon Bell.  The Steelers offense is at its best when it is running through Bell.  This would likely lead to Brown not having those games with 15+ targets.  My point is that in order for Brown to reach his maximum ceiling Big Ben would need to be at QB all 16 games and Bell would need to be out of the picture so Brown would be the focal point of the offense and would get a ton of volume.  So if we assume all players will be healthy in 2016 I could see a regression in Brown's production based on a healthy Le'Veon Bell. 

O'Dell Beckham Jr. has been one of the best WRs since entering the league.  In fact he may be the favorite to lead the league in touchdowns among receivers this season.  The Giants did draft Sterlin Shepard who could potentially take targets away from Beckham and who knows maybe Victor Cruz comes back to his original form and also takes targets away from Beckham.  Beckham is more than likely a lock to have 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns so he has one of the highest floors in the league, but Hopkins will have a similar floor based on the volume you can expect him to get.  Both Beckham and Hopkins are the clear cut number one WRs on their respective teams but I feel their teams have taken a different route in building around them.  The Giants seem to have drafted Shepard to be a guy that can be an option for when defenses try to take Beckham out of the game.  Like I said before the Texans drafted Fuller to stretch the field which will be very beneficial for Hopkins.   In my opinion the Giants drafted a potential high volume guy in Shepard which could have a negative impact on Beckham's ceiling.  I don't see Fuller as a guy that could potentially demand a large amount of volume therefore I see very little impact on Hopkins' ceiling. 

Julio Jones and Hopkins are very similar since their team's offense runs through them so volume for these players could be identical this year.  The only knock on Julio would be the number of touchdowns he scores.  For some unknown reason a big physical receiver like Julio Jones does not get into the end zone as much as the other top receivers in the league.  This somewhat lowers Julio's ceiling.  Until he shows he can be one of the top receivers in terms of getting in the end zone I think it would be fair to consider Hopkins over Julio. 

Hopkins also has a somewhat favorable schedule in my opinion.  His toughest matchups will be one matchup with Denver, one matchup with New England, and two matchups with the Colts.  Denver should still have a very good pass defense, the coach in New England is known for his ability to take away an offenses best weapon more times than not he is successful in doing so, and the Colts have a very good cornerback in Vonte Davis.  One thing about Hopkins that I absolutely love is his ability to come down with catches when the defender(s) has/have excellent coverage.  Hopkins has that "my ball" mentality that all great receivers have.  Hopkins' ceiling has done nothing but rise during the offseason I think the argument can be made that Hopkins has the most upside of any receiver in the league.  So a receiver that finished third in scoring last year, should be a lock for a top 5 finish this year, and arguably has the most upside out of all the receivers should absolutely be considered as the number one receiver off the board in drafts this year.