Why DeAndre Hopkins Could Have One of the Best Receiving Seasons Ever

Despite sub-par quarterberack play, Hopkins is still stuffing that stat sheet.

1,850 yards, 237 targets, 134 receptions, and 10 touchdowns.

This would be DeAndre Hopkins' stat line for the entire season if he continued his current pace.

He has played only five games, so it is early, but it isn't too early to start appreciating what Hopkins has been doing so far in 2015.

Historical Context

The NFL single-season record for receptions is held by Marvin Harrison when he racked up 143 catches in the 2002 season. Harrison also had the added benefit of having Peyton Manning (heard of him?) to lead the offense. While Hopkins is not on pace to break this record, he is in line to place second all time with his 134 catches. The amount of catches Hopkins is on pace to receive is impressive, but it makes sense because he is also on pace for the most targets in NFL history.

Hopkins' numbers carried out over the full 16 weeks would give him an insane 237 targets this season. To put that in context, since 1990 the current leader in single-season targets is Rob Moore with 208. Hopkins is on pace to break that within his first 14 weeks! With an average of 14.8 targets per game, the third-year wide receiver out of Clemson is getting his name called early and often, and he is turning it into productivity.

Just a few years back, Calvin Johnson had a remarkable season while setting an NFL record with 1,964 yards. Hopkins actually has better numbers than Johnson did through five weeks but is not quite on pace to break that record. Johnson finished the season strong to end with an average of 123 yards per game.

If you extend Hopkins' receiving yards for the rest of the season, he will complete his 2015 campaign with 1,850 yards. That would be enough for him to rank second all time in single-season receiving yards.

Taking a look at numberFire's Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which compares how a player performs relative to expectation-level, Hopkins leads all receivers this season in that category as well with a Reception NEP of 54.34.

To stretch that number over the course of the season based on his current Reception NEP per target (0.73) and at his current target pace (237 targets), Hopkins would post a Reception NEP of 173.01.

For comparison, here are the 10 best seasons by Reception NEP since 2000.

Player Year Reception NEP
Torry Holt
2003 166.3
Calvin Johnson 2012 165.1
Marvin Harrison 2002 164.7
Randy Moss 2007 157.1
Randy Moss 2003 156.6
Muhsin Muhammad 2004 152.8
Antonio Brown 2014 151.6
Wes Welker 2011 146.6
Calvin Johnson 2011 145.4
Terrell Owens 2001 145.0

This top 10 list is pretty good company to be in.

And as you can see, Hopkins is on pace to post the best season by Reception NEP as far back as our data goes.

His dominance this season has been incredible, especially considering he has had Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer as his quarterbacks this season.

Quarterback Situation

Since entering the league, Hopkins has had many quarterbacks under center. This sad list includes Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates, Ryan Fitzpatrick, even Tom Savage threw a few passes last year, and to round out the group are Mallet and Hoyer. Despite the below average quarterback play, Hopkins has been able to produce solid numbers for the Houston Texans.

Last year, he caught 76 passes for 1,210 yards and 6 touchdowns. That's actually pretty good.

So far in 2015, his numbers have been incredible, regardless who is running the offense, but that doesn't mean his quarterbacks are doing him any favors.

There are 41 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 30 drop backs this year. According to our Passing NEP metric, Hoyer ranks 17th and Mallet ranks 36th. Hoyer has a Passing NEP of 17.72 while Mallet is near the bottom with an -12.74, meaning that Mallet can lose points for his team with the best of 'em!

Not even Mallet's raw numbers compare to Hoyer's.

Quarterback Completion % TD/INT Passing NEP % of Passes to Hopkins
Brian Hoyer  62% (59 / 95)  5 / 2 17.7 33%
Ryan Mallet  53% (78 / 147)  3 / 4 -12.7 30%

Meanwhile, Hoyer hasn't been that terrible and actually targets Hopkins on 33% of his attempts. Through the first five weeks, Hoyer seems like the better quarterback for Hopkins moving forward. Hoyer has also been named the starter for Week 6 against the Jaguars.

To wrap up I want to show the Texans' remaining schedule and how those defenses rank among the league in our Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP metric. Houston's rest-of-season schedule will likely contribute to Hopkins' success.

Opponent Week Adj. Def. Passing NEP rank
Jacksonville Jaguars 6 31st
Miami Dolphins 7 28th
Tennessee Titans 8 10th
Cincinnati Bengals 10 19th
New York Jets 11 4th
New Orleans Saints 12 29th
Buffalo Bills 13 6th
New England Patriots 14 11th
Indianapolis Colts 15 30th
Tennessee Titans 16 10th
Jacksonville Jaguars 17 31st

There are a few tough games in there, as expected, but there are also many games upcoming where Hopkins may put up very impressive stats. His production thus far has been remarkable, and it surely warrants everyone to keep an eye on him the rest of the season. Of course, it is still early.

However, we may be watching what could turn out to be one of the best wide receiver seasons ever.