DeAndre Hopkins Can Soften the Blow of Andre Johnson's Departure
The Houston Texans will have to replace the best player in the young franchise’s history this offseason.
The club has released Andre Johnson, and reports say the receiver is close to signing with the Colts. The moves mean the Texans will lose a player with 1,012 career receptions for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns, who is also the team's all-time leader in approximate value, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Fortunately for Houston, DeAndre Hopkins followed up a solid rookie season with an even better performance last year, and seems like as good a fit as any to step into Johnson’s huge shoes.
The Clemson product, taken with the 27th overall pick in 2013, caught 76 passes for 1,210 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. Hopkins was targeted 127 times, giving him a 59.8% catch rate and 9.5 yards per target.
Here is how Hopkins and Johnson fared last season in terms of traditional stats, as well as our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics. Net Expected Points measures each play's scoring probability impact given down and distance and field position. You can read more about it in our glossary.
|Player||Targets||Rec||Yds||Y/C||Y/T||C%||Reception NEP||Target NEP||Rec NEP/Target||Success Rate|
Johnson set career lows in Target NEP, Success Rate and Reception NEP per target last year, but the differences here make some sense given the two players are at different stages in their careers (Hopkins is 22-years-old, while Johnson is 33).
With Johnson’s performance slipping, Hopkins more than compensated, and was the only receiver in the NFL last season to account for 35% of his team’s receiving yards, according to Chase Stuart.
While Hopkins and Johnson had a similar catch rate last season, the similarities end there.
Hopkins excelled most in the deep passing game, finishing eighth in the NFL in yards per reception and was 18th (among 74 qualifying receivers) in catch rate on passes thrown 20 yards or further down field, according to Pro Football Focus. Johnson, meanwhile, tied for 83rd in yards per catch and 53rd in deep passing catch rate.
While Johnson caught more passes, Hopkins was still the more valuable receiver, ranking 17th at the position in NEP on receptions and 40th in NEP on all his targets. Johnson was 52nd in Reception NEP and 102nd in Target NEP.
Given Johnson was targeted more often, you'd be correct in assuming that Hopkins was considerably better on a per catch and per target basis. Hopkins had more yards per target and per catch, in addition to more Reception NEP per target, where the second-year receiver ranked 26th out of the 87 receivers with at least 50 targets.
Johnson? He was 86th.
This may seem strange, given Johnson's respectable showing in terms of traditional stats, but it makes more sense once we put these numbers into proper context. While Johnson caught 85 passes, not all of them actually got the Texans closer to scoring.
Our Success Rate metric measures the percentage of receptions that yielded positive NEP. The average for all receivers was 80.7%, and for receivers with at least 50 targets, the average was 85.2%. Only 67 of Johnson's 85 receptions netted positive NEP, giving Johnson a 78.8% rate, which is 71st among this group of receivers.
Johnson caught 35 passes that did not result in a first down last season, which was ninth among all wide receivers last year (six of these came on third or fourth down). He was tied for fifth in receptions on first down that gained four yards or less (with 14), and tied for sixth at the position in catches on 2nd-and-7 or greater that yielded four yards or less (10) .
These stats, in turn, make sense when you consider Johnson typically ran short routes last year, as Johnson tied for 81st out of 115 qualifying wide receivers in average depth of target (10.0), per PFF.
Hopkins, meanwhile, posted an 86.8% Success Rate, which ranked 41st at the position (his 13.4 aDOT ranked 31st).
Both players' numbers would presumably be better, if not for the Texans’ mediocre quarterback play. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and Ryan Mallett led a Texans passing attack that tied for 17th in yards per pass attempt (7.1), and was 19th in our expected points added rankings.
Looking ahead to 2015, Hopkins looks to be stuck with a subpar passer again, as Houston has reportedly signed former Brown Brian Hoyer, who ranked 23rd in Passing NEP last year and 26th in Success Rate (among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts).
Still, given the strong start to his career, there is little reason to doubt Hopkins can elevate his play further in his third year. He won’t make Texans fans forget Andre Johnson, but he seems poised to pick up where the potential Hall of Famer left off.