Fantasy Football: Is DeAndre Hopkins Primed to Disappoint Again?
Value, like risk, is relative. Fantasy football drafts are where we make decisions about when a given player is appropriately valued relative to their risk.
Last year, fantasy drafters got that proposition dead wrong when it came to DeAndre Hopkins. On average, per data from Fantasy Football Calculator, Hopkins was selected with the fifth pick in the first round of point-per-reception (PPR) drafts. Spending that much to acquire him really hurt his owners as Hopkins finished the season as PPR WR27 (WR25 in standard-scoring leagues).
This year, drafters have adjusted. Hopkins' current PPR average draft position (ADP) is the second pick of the third round, or the 26th overall pick in a 12-team league. The question we have to answer is -- at the top of the third round, should we take him or pass on him? Has his price fallen far enough, or does he still present too much risk?
To answer that question, we'll first contextualize Hopkins' 2016 campaign and set an expectation for 2017. Then we'll contrast that to other players being drafted near Hopkins.
The Nightmare That Was 2016
Let's take a look at what happened to Hopkins last year, compared to the rest of his career. We can do this with our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which you can read more about in our glossary. For Hopkins, we'll focus on Reception NEP and Success Rate, which is the percentage of plays which positively impacted NEP, and we can compare his Reception NEP per target numbers to the league-average marks for each season.
|Year||Rec||Rec NEP||Targets||Rec NEP/Target (League Average)||Success Rate|
On a per-target basis last year, Hopkins accumulated just 0.60 Reception NEP per look. That's not only well below his previous seasons, it's below the league average for the position (0.66). Among the 60 wideouts who saw at least 80 targets last year, Hopkins ranked 55th in Reception NEP per target.
Of course, some of that was due to the poor play of Brock Osweiler.
In 2015, Hopkins received passes primarily from Brian Hoyer, who posted 0.10 Passing NEP per drop back. In 2016, Osweiler was nowhere near as good. Each Osweiler drop back, on average, was good for -0.04 Passing NEP. Yes, Osweiler produced negative value every time he dropped back. Since 2000, there have been 261 quarterbacks who've dropped back more than 500 times in a season. Osweiler's 2016 campaign ranks 237th.
In other words, Hopkins went from decent quarterback play in 2015 to historically terrible quarterback play in 2016.
What Can We Expect for 2017?
If we just compare Hopkins' 2016 to his breakout 2015 season, the drop-off is obvious and startling. But what if we compare his 2016 numbers to his career averages from 2013 through 2015?
|Year||Rec||Reception NEP||Targets||Reception NEP/Target||Catch Rate||Success Rate|
His performance from a Reception NEP per target point of view still declined, but otherwise things don't look so bad. Last season seems like an average year from a catches and Reception NEP point of view. In fact, despite a lower catch rate, he managed to improve on his career Reception Success Rate, so the catches he did make were very valuable to the Texans.
Hopkins' 2015 campaign was fueled by a massive amount of volume. His targets took a hit in 2016, but few receivers have any campaigns with 192 targets, let alone back-to-back seasons. A decline in volume was almost certain.
Maybe the outlier season in Hopkins career was 2015, not 2016. With that in mind, it looks like he'll have a healthy amount of targets with which to work this season. We can also say that Hopkins is quite likely to get better quarterback play in 2017. Even though we don't know much about Tom Savage or Deshaun Watson, we know that the odds of them performing worse than Osweiler are slim, since Osweiler was so historically awful.
So, following that thinking, our 2017 projection for Hopkins should be better than his 2016 numbers, but not as good as his 2015 output. numberFire's models agree, projecting the following stat line for Hopkins this year.
If you're scoring at home, that's roughly 240 points in PPR leagues (154.74 in standard), and it would have been good for a top-12 finish among wideouts last year. That's right around what we expect for his this season as we have him projected as the WR12.
Hopkins is currently being drafted, on average, as the 13th wide receiver. His projection, which seems reasonable based on our analysis, is top-12 worthy. That suggests that he's fairly priced. Just to be sure, however, let's compare him to some other wide receivers who are similar in price.
|ADP Rank Among WR||Pick||Name||nF Rank|
This table helps reinforce the idea that Hopkins is priced appropriately. He projects similarly to the wide receivers going in front of him, and he's expected to perform better than the ones going after him. In fact, the drop-off in projected rank after Hopkins is steep enough that we could say Hopkins represents the end of a tier.
Hopkins' value is rightfully depressed from its pre-2016 level, but it appears to have stabilized within a fair range.
He should see some improvement in quarterback play and a modest increase in volume. He's being drafted at a position that's commensurate with his projection, and there are no obvious, huge bargains behind him that would warrant going in front of Hopkins.
If you're on the clock early in the third round, you should feel comfortable taking Hopkins -- just don't expect a repeat of his 2015 season.