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Why DeAndre Hopkins is a risky 1st-round pick

By Jared Smola 10:06am EDT 6/9/20

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What You Need to Know:

  • Hopkins became the 9th WR since 2010 to finish as a top-12 PPR WR and then change teams in the offseason. Six of the previous 8 scored fewer points in their 1st season with a new team.
  • Deshaun Watson beat Kyler Murray in completion rate, yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt and Pro Football Focus passing grade last year.
  • There’s room for Arizona to grow its target pie in 2020 after ranking just 18th in pass attempts last year.

A new address

It’s rare to see a WR of Hopkins’ caliber change teams in the prime of his career. But that’s what we’re dealing with after the Texans shockingly shipped Hopkins to Arizona.

In fact, Hopkins became just the 9th WR since 2010 to finish as a top-12 PPR WR and then change teams in the offseason. Here are the previous 8 with their PPR points per game in the year before and after changing teams. The final column is the percent change in points per game.

Not a great look for Hopkins, with 6 of the previous 8 WRs scoring fewer fantasy points per game. Of course, all these guys were coming off big seasons — so it’s not a major surprise that they weren’t able to match it the following year. Besides Jackson and Marshall, Welker, Maclin, Cooks and Landry still managed to finish 19th or better in PPR points with their new teams.

Now, you’ll be looking for much more than a top-19 finish from Hopkins if you draft him this summer. He figures to be 1 of the first 5 WRs off the board in your draft, somewhere between the middle of Round 1 and the middle of Round 2. Recent history suggests Hopkins is a risky investment at that price.

Murray vs. Watson

By pretty much any metric, Deshaun Watson was better than Kyler Murray last year: 67.3% to 64.4% in completion rate, 7.8 to 6.9 in yards per attempt, 7.7 to 6.6 in adjusted yards per attempt and 76.1 to 61.1 in Pro Football Focus passing grade. It’s plenty fair to expect Murray to improve in his 2nd season — especially after adding a talent like Hopkins. But it’s a big leap to expect him to be as good, or better, than Watson.

And that’s without factoring in all the chemistry Hopkins and Watson built over the last 3 seasons.

Target projection

But our biggest concern is volume. Hopkins averaged 166 targets per season over the past 5 years in Houston. His finishes among WRs in targets those years: 3rd, 7th, 1st, 5th and 5th. So that volume really has nowhere to go but down in Arizona — in a new offense with a new QB. The COVID-interrupted offseason isn’t doing Hopkins any favors, either.

While we’re fully expecting Hopkins to lead the 2020 Cardinals in targets, guys like Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald and Kenyan Drake aren’t going away. Kirk garnered 108 targets (a 23.3% target share) in his sophomore campaign last year. Fitz remained a reliable possession receiver, turning 109 targets into 75 catches, 804 yards and 4 TDs. And Drake saw 35 targets (a 14.0% share) in 8 games after joining the team mid-season.

On the plus side, there’s room for Arizona’s total passing pie to grow after finishing 18th in pass attempts last year. The Cardinals ranked 22nd in offensive snaps and 14th in pass rate. They could climb in both departments with Murray and HC Kliff Kingsbury entering their 2nd seasons and Hopkins added to the mix.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

Moving from Houston to Arizona adds some unknown to Hopkins’ 2020 fantasy outlook. How quickly will he get comfortable in HC Kliff Kingsbury’s offense? How will he gel with QB Kyler Murray? What will happen to his target share in a brand new environment?

Hopkins is an elite receiver in his prime at 28 years old. And the Cardinals’ offense seems to be on the ascent. So we’re certainly not expecting Hopkins to bomb in Arizona. But there’s enough risk here to have us shying away unless he drops into the middle of Round 2.

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