Are We Underrating DeAndre Hopkins?

Just how good is Texans second-year man DeAndre Hopkins? Can he sustain his 2014 success?

After quietly putting together a fantastic rookie season, the DeAndre Hopkins hype sort of died this summer. He eventually slipped into the middle of the ninth round in fantasy drafts by mid-August and seemingly fell through the proverbial cracks. The hype was dead. Now, after five games of producing better statistical numbers than his veteran counterpart Andre Johnson, the Hopkins fire has been reignited.

Just how good is Texans second-year man DeAndre Hopkins? Can he sustain his 2014 success?

Are We Witnessing DeAndre Hopkins’ Breakout Season?

DeAndre Hopkins has been on the field for 95.5% of the Texans snaps and has commanded 24% of the market share of targets (targets divided by total team targets). These percentages signify two things. First, a healthy snap share and second, a healthy workload. The bigger question now is how efficient is he when he’s on the field?

For the readers who are new to numberFire, Net Expected Points (NEP) quantifies a player's contribution to his team’s scoring output based on how he performs on each play versus what is expected. Our metrics definitely confirm what we have seen on the field. The following table was sorted by the 58 wide receivers who have received 25 or more targets this year.

NameRecYardsTDReception NEPTarget NEPRec NEP per Target
DeAndre Hopkins24354327.79 (20th)17.06 (13th)0.90 (6th)

What you are looking at is one of the NFL’s most efficient receivers. Among the 58 wideouts, Hopkins ranks in the top 20 throughout the major receiving categories, including Target NEP, which measures points added on all targets. What's so fantastic about this is that Hopkins doesn't have an elite passer throwing him the ball, and one who's tied with the most interceptions thrown this year. Considering that would knock Hopkins' score, it's impressive that he still ranks 13th within the metric.

Hopkins is certainly a deep-threat, as seen by his per target numbers, but it’s not as if that's the only thing he can do. In fact, 34% of Hopkins’ routes have been route of the slot, which means the Texans aren’t content just sticking him opposite Andre Johnson and letting him stretch the field. Instead, they're finding ways to get him the ball.

As a frame of reference and to have a better perspective of how an individual player is doing, it’s important to note the players success relative to his teammates. DeAndre Hopkins wins here again. On 11 fewer targets, Hopkins has a better Reception and Target NEP than Andre Johnson. Am I saying “Nuk” Hopkins is better than the 33-year-old Johnson? Not necessarily, but the time is near.

Can the Success Be Sustained?

Unfortunately, the sustainability aspect is where things become a bit murky for our breakout candidate. First of all, he’s averaging only 6.2 targets per game, which is only good enough for 100 total targets in a 16-game season. If you extrapolate Hopkins’ first five games, he’s on pace for 77 receptions, 1,133 yards, and 9.6 touchdowns. As good as he’s been, there's no way he’ll keep that pace up when receiving 6 to 7 targets per game. His per-game targets need to be much closer to 9 or 10 to keep up his fantastic pace.

Another thing working against a sustained DeAndre Hopkins breakout is the Houston Texans are one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL. In fact, they have the lowest pass-to-run ratio in the NFL. As a result, this hurts the DeAndre Hopkins’ weekly floor just from a sheer play-calling standpoint.

Where does that leave us? Well, if Hopkins begins seeing eight-plus targets per game, I think it’s safe to say his breakout pace will continue. But with his low amount of targets and the Texans run-heavy approach, it could saturate the much desired breakout. As evidenced by his numbers and our metrics, it would be very wise of Bill O’Brien and the Texans to feed Hopkins more.

Until the targets rise, the play-calling becomes a little more pass-heavy, or a combination of both, Hopkins is a low-end WR2 in PPR and a WR3 in standard scoring. Based on numberFire’s remaining year projections, DeAndre Hopkins is clustered on the overall list with fellow low-end WR2s Michael Floyd, Eric Decker, and Mike Wallace, with Hopkins slated to finish as WR40.