DeAndre Hopkins Is Officially The Best Wide Receiver Alive
Through the first seven weeks of the season, he doesn’t lead the league in catches, yards, or receptions. He doesn’t lead the NFL in targets, and he doesn’t even have the most touchdown receptions among all wide receivers. He’s not even the first guy that the common NFL fan thinks of, when you ask them about the best player at his position.
And with all of that being said, it’s time we acknowledge the fact that DeAndre Hopkins might’ve ascended to the throne of best wide receiver in the NFL today.
For the last four seasons, Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers was the undisputed heavyweight champion at his position. But truth be told, at the end of last season, and heading into this season, many smart people in and around the NFL began asking the question if Hopkins is the #1 contender for Brown’s proverbial belt, if not “#1A” to Brown’s “#1” ranking at the position.
Hopkins doesn’t get the accolades of some of his counterparts because at 6' 1" and 214 lbs., he’s too big to be one of the lightning-quick and slippery wide receivers (not to mention the fact that he ran the 40-yard dash in a hair under 4.6 second coming out of Clemson University), and too small to be one of the eye-popping big-body wide receivers.
But Hopkins’ plays the game in a way that belies his size and speed (or lack thereof). We marvel at the route-running prowess of Brown, but Hopkins is as nuanced and crafty off the line of scrimmage as anyone. We marvel at the size of guys like Julio Jones or Mike Evans, but Hopkins knows how to box-out and high-point the football as well as either of those guys. We marvel at the one-handed highlight-reel catches made by Odell Beckham, Jr., but Hopkins makes the same caliber of one-handed catches in a way that makes it looks like he’s slathered superglue on gloves before the game started.
Further, there’s an argument to be made that there isn’t a single wide receiver in the NFL who possesses the same contortionist-level body control like Hopkins; he might have the best “toe drag swag” game of anyone in the league. His ability to keep his body in one particular direction while reaching out and grabbing the football thrown in a completely conflicting direction looks more like something you’d see in a Spider-Man comic book, versus what you’d see on a football field. You’d swear that when Leonardo Da Vinci was drawing The Vitruvian Man, he was actually just explaining Hopkins’ legitimate catch radius.
But all the abilities in the world don’t mean a thing if it doesn’t translate into helping your team win a game. After his Houston Texans started the season 0–3, Hopkins has averaged just under seven catches for 103 yards over the past five games, scoring a touchdown in four of those games (including two last night); not coincidentally, Houston won all five of those games.
His 24-yard reception in the closing seconds of overtime put Houston in position to kick the game-winning field goal against the Indianapolis Colts.
His whirling dervish 49-yard catch-and-run in overtime against the Dallas Cowboys the following week — one of the top five highlight plays of this season, bar none — put Houston in position to kick another game-winning field goal.
Hopkins flashed the aforementioned high-point abilities a week later, when he scored the only offensive touchdown for the Houston Texans, in their 20–13 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Against the Jacksonville Jaguars this past Sunday, Hopkins clowned the infamous Jalen Ramsey for several highlight-reel plays, helping Houston beat Jacksonville by a 20–7 score and overtake the Jaguars for first place in the AFC South.
And while it ultimately didn’t count, yesterday evening against Houston, Hopkins had what would’ve been the catch of the year, when he did an impossible one-handed reel-in of a pass, and then safely secured it against his hamstring while maintaining control of the catch throughout.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about potential “strength of schedule” questions, rest assured that Hopkins has reeled off the aforementioned stats against four of the very best cornerbacks in the NFL this season:
Against the Jaguars last Sunday, Hopkins became the fastest player in team history to compile 40 touchdown catches; he achieved that mark in 13 less games than franchise legend Andre Johnson.
But forget about potentially being the best wide receiver in the (rather short) history of the Houston Texans. Can you really argue against him being the best wide receiver in the game today?
Antonio Brown is on pace for his lowest reception and yardage total in six years. The next time the Atlanta Falcons play, it will have been 343 days since Julio Jones has caught a touchdown pass in a regular season game. Odell Beckham Jr. had three touchdowns in less than five games last year, but thanks to the decomposing Eli Manning, and he has two touchdowns in seven games this year. Adam Thielen and Tyreek Hill have been magnificent this season, but are we sure they’re “true #1” wide receivers ?
Right now, Hopkins checks off every box you’d need from someone i’m asserting as being the best wide receiver alive: statistical production, individual dominance, highlight reel plays, “putting his team on his back and willing them to a win” moments, and the simple fact that, if the fate of everything you held dear depended on one play, and you could choose any wide receiver in the NFL to whom to throw the ball, Hopkins might very well be your #1 choice right now.
Week 8 Picks
Miami at Houston (-7.5) — pick made before the game
Philadelphia (-3) vs. Jacksonville (Game in London)
Washington (-1) at NY Giants
Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-8.5)
Denver at Kansas City (-10)
NY Jets at Chicago (-7)
Seattle at Detroit (-3)
Tampa Bay at Cincinnati (-4.5)
Baltimore at Carolina (-2)
Indianapolis (-3) at Oakland
San Francisco at Arizona (-1)
Green Bay at LA Rams (-9)
New Orleans at Minnesota (-1)
New England (-14) at Buffalo
Last Week: 8–5
Season To Date: 38–49–4