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michaelfloyd

Recently, RotoViz released their August redraft rankings for wide receiversDeAndre Hopkins ranked in at No. 31, which is actually six spots higher than his ADP of WR37. Elsewhere he’s listed as WR43. So in the grand scheme of things, our rankers were actually pretty bullish on Hopkins’ prospects. I just don’t think they were bullish enough on Hopkins. In fact, I think everybody is way too low on Hopkins. That’s because Hopkins has all the makings of a league-winner. Let me explain.

The main argument against Hopkins having a true breakout in 2014 is the presence of Andre Johnson. That certainly is a huge obstacle. The recurring comparison I see is to Michael Floyd. People seem to think Hopkins will have a true breakout in his third season, which is what they expect to happen with Floyd this year. Here are the 2013 stat lines for Floyd and elder teammate Larry Fitzgerald.

WR Targets Receptions Yards Touchdowns Fantasy Points
Michael Floyd 113 66 1054 5 201.4
Larry Fitzgerald 135 82 954 10 238.2

When people make the comparison to Floyd they seem to be missing the point that Floyd was one of the best draft picks you could have made last year. He was being drafted as WR45 and finished as WR31 in PPR points per game and WR25 overall.

Oddly, a comparison I haven’t seen often is Alshon Jeffery. The common argument against Hopkins in 2014 is identical to the common argument against Jeffery in 2013. Still, Jeffery broke out. Here are Jeffery’s and Brandon Marshall‘s 2013 stat lines.

WR Targets Receptions Yards Touchdowns Fantasy Points
Alshon Jeffery 149 89 1421 7 283.6
Brandon Marshall 164 100 1295 12 301.5

Jeffery represented even more of a value than Floyd. He was drafted as WR48 and finished as WR10 in PPR points per game and WR8 overall.

If we’re going to compare Hopkins to Floyd and Jeffery we should probably look at their rookie stat lines.

WR Targets Receptions Yards Touchdowns Fantasy Points
DeAndre Hopkins 91 52 802 2 144.2
Michael Floyd 86 45 562 2 113.2
Alshon Jeffery 48 24 367 3 78.7

Hopkins did play in 16 games, whereas Floyd and Jeffery played in 15 and 10 games respectively. Even if you prorate their stats1 Hopkins still had the most impressive rookie year. Given that all three were highly drafted and strong prospects coming out of college, that suggests he has a better chance to breakout as a sophomore than Floyd or Jeffery did. The added game experience is actually a plus on its own.

The “common sense” suggestion that Johnson will prevent a Hopkins breakout contradicts what happened with both Floyd and Jeffery last year. Sure, Johnson has been a perennial PPR monster, but Brandon Marshall outscored Johnson in both 2012 and 2013 and Jeffery still managed to breakout. Another thing you may have noticed is that Floyd and Jeffery came close to matching their respective teammates’ production despite scoring five less TDs apiece. Johnson has never scored more than nine TDs in a single season, and he only scored three TDs more than Hopkins last season. So it’s quite possible that Hopkins has more TD scoring potential than Floyd or Jeffery had.

Per the WR Similarity Score App, Hopkins’ high-end projection in PPR is 12.3 points per game. That would have made him WR34 in points per game last year. But just because it’s his high-end projection doesn’t mean it’s his best-case scenario. Here is his similarity score plot:

hopkinsplot

 

You’ll notice that six of his comps saw an increase of approximately 50 percent or more in fantasy points per game the following season. That would give Hopkins 13.5 points per game, which would have put him right between T.Y. Hilton and Kendall Wright last year. That’s good company in PPR leagues. Two of his comps actually doubled their production. That would have given him 18 points per game. That would have made him WR10 in points per game last year, ahead of Jeffery, Floyd, and Johnson. The best comp is Josh Gordon’s legendary 2013 season. That would actually have given him similar production to Gordon. I don’t think that’s a particularly realistic outcome, but don’t ever let it be said that Hopkins does not possess a substantial amount of upside. Not only is Hopkins similar to breakout stars like Jeffery and Floyd, if he follows in the path of six of his twenty most comparable players he’ll also breakout.

Johnson may not be as big an obstacle as he seems anyway. There’s a lot of reason to expect a decline in production for him. Johnson has always been a target hog, but his 181 targets in 2013 were actually the most he has ever had in his career. Consider that Hopkins is the best WR Johnson has ever played with. Consider that Gary Kubiak, who always forces targets to his number one WR, is no longer in town. There’s no question that Johnson will see fewer targets in 2014, it’s just a matter of what the number is. If Johnson sees a smaller market share of targets than in the past, a significant percentage of those are likely going to Hopkins. I think Johnson will see more targets than Hopkins, I just also think the difference will be less than 25, much like it was for Floyd and Jeffery.

Johnson has other red flags as well. Johnson is 33 years old. He staged a holdout. He’s been sidelined with a hamstring injury since July 28There is a high risk of further injury. All of his time off the field has given Hopkins the opportunity to impress coaches and onlookers alike.

I understand that I may sound overly bullish on Hopkins, but we loved Hopkins as a prospect, he had a strong rookie season, and he fits one of the four main breakout profiles. The reasons to like Hopkins this year are largely the same reasons you should have liked Floyd, Jeffery, and Gordon last year. If you drafted all three last year you probably had both the best and the cheapest group of starting WRs in your league. If anything, I don’t think we’ve been beating the drum enough for Hopkins this year. It’s not a foregone conclusion that Hopkins breaks out, but there’s a lot of reason to believe he will. He probably has as much positive expected value as any draft pick this year. I’m not merely recommending that you draft Hopkins, I’m insisting that you do so.

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  1. Not a perfect method obviously, but functional.  (back)
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10 comments
Dan Schneier
Dan Schneier

Great article Justin. You hit on some great points and the argument was sound across the board. My issue with drafting Hopkins is such a simple one, but I can't shake it because I think it rings true. I don't know if I want to invest in the Texans offense. Horrible camp reports were followed by a horrible preseason opener ( I know, I shouldn't be judging off of the two series of Fitzpatrick that I watched + practice reports.....but when it looks THAT bad, it's hard not to take notice). I'm just not sure I want a piece of an offense that I think will genuinely struggle to move the ball with an overrated offensive line.

FantasyBunk
FantasyBunk

I love, love me some Hopkins. But I don't think his situation is comparable to that of Jeffery's. Hopkins hits just about all my checkmarks as a wideout, but Jeffery is bigger, faster, quicker, and much more explosive. He's a transcendent, Julio-esque talent who's utilized all over the gameplan. And he's got quarterbacking on his side, whereas Hopkins' quarterbacking will likely work against him for the next few years.


But Hopkins will get there. I think he's a rich man's Mike Crabtree. I have him down for a 73-1,089-6 line and I think he has a 90-1,200-9 season in his future with a real QB. Probably not more than 4-5 dynasty WRs I'd prefer.

apsmacart
apsmacart

Ok - you talked me in to it, I love DeAndre Hopkins.

chillermonster
chillermonster

Also, I go back and forth on Hopkins because I wonder if Houston's offense is going to be terrible again this year. I think that a lot of Schaub's sucking last year had to do with how much the OL sucked.

chillermonster
chillermonster

Reading this right after selecting Colston over Hopkins in a PPR...damnit.

Dan Schneier
Dan Schneier

For the record, for every other reason you outlined here, Hopkins is an excellent target.

Justin Winn
Justin Winn

@FantasyBunk I think his deficit in athleticism/size is probably in the short-term more than made up for by his record of production. I do think he has less long-term appeal than they do. The comparison I've seen from both the film and stat side is Hakeem Nicks, who was a huge contributor at a young age.

Justin Winn
Justin Winn

@chillermonster For me, I think the quality of an offense is really more of a floor issue than a ceiling issue, which is the opposite of what most people seem to believe.


I do think that might not be a problem for the same reasons Jay Cutler is a good target this year. Basically, if Hopkins breaks out Ryan Fitzpatrick/Other Houston QBs will have been underrated due to the quality of their WRs. I'm not convinced that Fitzpatrick is significantly worse than an aging Carson Palmer, Josh McCown, and Brandon Weeden/Brian Hoyer/Jason Campbell hydra.


People also seem to be expecting Houston to run the ball a lot, and I'm not sure that will be the case. Foster and Brown are the only proven backs on the roster and they also happen to be two of the most injury prone receivers in the NFL. Sportsinjurypredictor.com has Foster as the most likely player to get injured in the NFL.

Justin Winn
Justin Winn

@Dan Schneier That is actually my biggest concern as well. But I think that if Hopkins is who we think he is, it will be pretty much impossible for the offense to be that bad given the talent of Hopkins and Johnson. I think they project to be a lot like the 2013 Cardinals, just with a better (if still not good) offensive line, better receivers (at least in my estimation), and a lesser QB. I do think Fitzpatrick is underrated for fantasy purposes though.

Dan Schneier
Dan Schneier

@Justin Winn @Dan Schneier From a personnel standpoint, I can agree with your statement and it's spot on. However, I think a major component to why myself and others are buying into the Cardinals is Bruce Arians. Arians' vertically attacking scheme is not only great for fantasy football, but also real life. His route combinations are excellent (check out the first preseason game on the opening drive as rookie John Brown breaks off a fly route and gets open on a third-and-16 play for the first down). 


Overall though, I think you're spot on. This offense will move the ball and Hopkins is so undervalued from a talent standpoint.