By Bobby Kirschenbaum
Strength? Yes. Speed? Certainly. Big plays? Anytime. Game changer? No doubt. The accolades for Deandre Hopkins are endless, as the standout wide receiver hailing from Clemson had a breakout season this past year. Hopkins broke the 1,000 yard barrier this past season, and he is certainly poised to enter the conversation amongst the emerging stars in today’s game. He posted a whopping 1,210 yards on 76 receptions with 6 touchdowns, and Hopkins made this noise playing as the number two wide receiver in Houston behind Andre Johnson. With the Texans recently deciding to part ways with Johnson during this past offseason, the spotlight will be shining brightly on the new number one receiver on the Houston depth chart: Deandre Hopkins.
Hopkins’ poise on the field is certainly similar to that of a savvy veteran like Andre Johnson. He is only 22 years old and entering his third season in the NFL. He was drafted 27th overall in 2013 by the Texans, and so far he has proven his worth as a first round pick. In the combine, he ran a 4.41 40-yard dash, and his speed and shiftiness have allowed him to leave receivers in the dust. This past season, Deandre caught for over 100 yards in 4 games.
However, as if these 100-yard games weren’t impressive enough, in week 13, Deandre truly proved why he is worthy of assuming the leading receiver role in Houston. In a home game against the Titans, Andre Johnson was being locked down by Jason Mccourty. With the usual go-to receiver covered, Houston looked at the other side of the field for a lift and they sure got it from Hopkins. Hopkins delivered, putting up an electric 238 yards on 9 receptions and two touchdowns. This type of star performance rejuvenated the crowd, as they saw a star rising in Hopkins as the team rode on his back to a 24 point victory. Although his rookie year didn’t catch people’s attention, he is certainly on the rise.
With such memorable performances by Hopkins in only three seasons, there was one play that arguably topped them all; a play that remains vivid for its difficulty and borderline incredulousness. Overshadowed by Odell Beckham Jr.’s unanimous catch of the year, Hopkins made one that surely deserves to be in the same sentence as Beckham Jr.’s. In a game against the Giants, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick heaved one up in double coverage to Hopkins, and even two guys weren’t enough to prevent this relentless receiver from hauling the ball in…with one hand (video here).
As NFL free agency approaches, the Texans would certainly like to give Hopkins a second threat to take the pressure and double teams off of him. Initially, there were big names in the free agency market this year, which included Randall Cobb and Jeremy Maclin. However, Cobb and the Packers agreed to a new deal, and Maclin is headed to Kansas City to join the Chiefs. Therefore, the Texans have already fallen behind to capitalize on a couple of big names, placing even greater emphasis and confidence in Hopkins’ potential to rise to the star he is expected to become.
Although perhaps the greatest accomplishment thus far in Hopkins’s short career has been being named as a member of the first-team All-ACC at Clemson in 2012, pro bowls and other accolades are certainly expected from Hopkins in the upcoming years. Houston, you certainly don’t have a problem, but rather a star in the making. And for this week, Deandre Hopkins is the Athlete on the Rise.