The wide receiver position in the NFL is the most amazing of all the skill positions. One can point to the play of QB’s like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson and think they have the league on lock. However, a closer look will reveal that a receiver truly keeps a fan on the edge of their seats. But who’s the best? Is it Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr, Julio Jones, or someone else? Many will say one of those three, but my money is on the player often left out of the discussion– DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans.
Brown is a household name. The same can be said for Jones and Beckham but what about Hopkins? He’s often overlooked due to the defense of J.J. Watt and the inconsistency of the Texans’ QBs. But still, even with players like Matt Schaub, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Brock Osweiler, Deshaun Watson, and Tom Savage, Hopkins has continued to shine.
The reason Brown and Jones are recognizable are due to their teams winning. ODB gets his notice due to his on and off the field antics. A.J. Green has had his mentions when the Cincinnati Bengals were winning but he has fallen off lately. But where is the love for DeAndre Hopkins?
What really sets Brown, ODB, and Jones apart from a player like Hopkins?
Before anyone ever has a chance to think about their answer, they tend to blurt stuff out before their brains can comprehend what their mouth has said. “Look at the numbers” is the most common answer. Well, if we were to look at the numbers, fans would be a bit surprised at what they would find. Let’s take a quick dive into the receiver archives and see what we come up with. We will begin with the 2014 season since ODB came into the league then.
Antonio Brown (Steelers) 691 (Targets) 472 (Receptions) 6349 (Yards) 13.5 (Y/R) 44 (TD) 61 (Games)
Julio Jones (Falcons) 643 (Targets) 411 (Receptions) 6263 (Yards) 15.5 (Y/R) 23 (TD) 61 (Games)
Odell Beckham (Giants) 498 (Targets) 313 (Receptions) 4424 (Yards) 14.1 (Y/R) 38 (TD) 47 (Games)
DeAndre Hopkins (Texans) 644 (Targets) 361 (Receptions) 5063 (Yards) 14.2 (Y/R) 34 (TD) 63 (Games)
It’s clear that Brown is the top receiver here with Jones ahead of ODB and Hopkins, but what if? What happens if Hopkins actually has a reliable QB? Can that still be used as an excuse? Yes, it can. Look at the other receivers and who they have had throwing the ball their way. Since 2014, Brown, Jones, and Beckham have had the luxury of catching passes from a combined two Super Bowl winning QBs, three Pro Bowlers, and one NFL MVP.
Then you turn your focus on that Hopkins has had to deal with and it’s not even close. How many games has Eli Manning and Odell played together? How many has Matt Ryan and Jones played as a unit, and what about Ben Roethlisberger and Brown? While those duos have had time to gel, DeAndre Hopkins has played with eight different quarterbacks since 2014. And still, his numbers are up there with the supposedly top receivers in the game.
What this season holds for the Houston Texans is one of hope. With the franchise now in the hands of the electric Watson, this should give the Texans’ passing game some stability. During his rookie season, Watson and Hopkins were magic on the field. But, Hopkins now has help with Will Fuller. There should be no more double-teaming or safeties coming over the top. Defenses must now respect the scrambling ability of Watson and the receiving of Fuller.
With Hopkins set to see more single coverage in 2018, he could easily produce Brown-like numbers. To prove the point further, according to ESPN, in 2017, Hopkins finished the Fantasy Football year second with 309.8 points right behind Brown with 310.3 points. Hopkins is closing the gap.
The saying is that it’s hard to find a good QB or RB but the truth is, WR’s are just as hard to come by. There is only a handful of ones that can put up numbers consistently, and as it stands now, DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best. He may not be better than Brown at this point, but by the end of the 2018 NFL season, he could very well take over that top spot.