Fantasy Football: Why DeAndre Hopkins Won’t Repeat 2017
If you’ve been on the site recently, we’ve been highlighting a number of potential WR1 profiles from players ranked outside of the Ballers consensus top 15 rankings. I want to switch gears and dive into an elite fantasy pass catcher; in fact, he was THE WR to own in 2017. I want to explain why Texans All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins won’t repeat his magnificent fantasy season.
If you’re asking yourself: hey, haven’t I read something similar to this before?
In 2016, I wrote the EXACT same article about Nuk highlighting why he couldn’t repeat his 2015 campaign and was a prime candidate for regression. After lighting the world on fire to the tune of 192 targets, 111 recs for 1521 yards and 11 TDs, it was clear he maintained an unsustainable pace and volume coming his way that raised a red flag for his 2016 season. If you drafted him in 2016, then you know… Hopkins was as disappointing as they get ending the year as WR27 in PPR & WR35(!) in standard after being a consensus top 6 draft pick.
While I’m not here to project that type of cliff dive, I do want to examine Hopkins’ 2018 prospects in a similar vein and outline 3 reasons why it might be hard for him to return value: Deshaun Watson‘s insane pace, Nuk’s expected TD regression, and his current draft price.
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If you owned Nuk in 2017, you know the absolute beast he was. If you played against him especially during that 6-game span with Deshaun Watson, you ran into a fantasy buzzsaw. He finished the year with the most TDs of his career and an absurd target share at 33.1%, the most in the NFL. Let’s see what we can glean from his career trajectory.
|Year||Targets||Team Targets||Target Share %||Rec||Rec %||Yards||YPC||TDs||TD Rate|
Not only did his TD rate skyrocket, but Hopkins benefited despite the fact the Texans’ passing volume dropped for the 2nd straight year. He also improved his yards per catch to a healthy 14.4. One of the indicators of Hopkins’ untapped fantasy production could’ve been seen in the amount of Air Yards (1793) he had in 2016. That total ranked 8th in the league highlighting the fact there were a ton of yards left on the field from poor targets. For more information on Air Yards and why they matter, check out The Path to WR1: Series Guide.
After staring at his awesome 2017, why are we heaping up such negativity for 2018? Here are 3 reasons why I think it Hopkins will be hard-pressed to repeat his fantasy production and why fantasy owners should take notice before drafting him.
1. The Watson Windfall
It would be easy to lay claim that the biggest difference between 2016’s disaster and 2017’s monster season was the QB play. Deshaun Watson’ looked like a rookie on film in his first two games until he decided to unleash his mutant powers. If you take out his Week 1 line in which he came in for an ineffective Tom Savage, Watson averaged 27.19 fantasy points during his next 6 weeks before his unfortunate ACL tear. There were some monster weeks with Hopkins including a 3-TD game against Kansas City and a 224-yard explosion against Seattle. But how did Hopkins fair after the rookie sensation was sidelined?
|Target Avg.||Rec Avg.||Rec Yards Avg.||TD avg.||PPR avg.|
|With Watson (7 Games)||10.86||6.43||86.6||1||21.1|
|Without Watson (8 Games)||12.25||6.38||96.5||0.75||20.5|
It’s plain to see that Hopkins functioned quite well as a fantasy asset after Week 8 despite catching the rock from the likes of Savage and T.J. Yates. So you might be saying to yourself: wait, doesn’t that prove that Hopkins will be awesome once Watson returns? It’s been pointed out as Jason mentioned this recently on the Early 2018 Busts episode, but Watson’s insane pace of throwing a TD on 9.3% of his attempts is not sustainable. Many have highlighted this point but its the highest since Peyton Manning’s 55-TD campaign in 2004. It beckons us for TD-regression and a potential sophomore slump.
While his TD rate is certain to regress, it is alarming to see that Watson’s 3.9% INT rate would’ve ranked 3rd worst in the league with his 16-game pace being 18.3 INTs. That would’ve place behind only Deshone Kizer for worst in the league. Yikes! His sack rate was 8.5%, which also was a bottom 5 mark for QBs. Our memory is somewhat fuzzy but these Texans played without J.J. Watt the entire year and their defense gave up THE MOST POINTS IN THE LEAGUE at 27.2 per game. Watson was put in a position to force the ball in negative game scripts and showed on film some major turnover-prone ways. Let us not paint Watson’s picture with rose-colored glasses and not temper our hype. What we have to bake into Hopkins’ draft cost and projections is Watson. Like Jason, count me among those who also see a pothole coming in the roadway for 2018.
2. TD Regression is Coming
If Watson is due for some statistical regression in the TD department, that obviously affects his top pass catcher. However, this isn’t a simple A = B equation where we dog Hopkins because of his QB. Hopkins himself is due for some TD regression. As stated earlier, Hopkins led the league by a wide margin in TD receptions (13) cashing in at a rate of 13.5%. Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham were the next closest with only 10. We haven’t seen that wide of a gap among the receiving TD leader and his competition since Dez Bryant‘s 2014 and not before that since Dwayne Bowe in 2010. (Ok, you caught me. I just wanted to mention a Dwayne Bowe fact in here)
The point is that fantasy production from WRs was down across the board last year. According to fellow writer and Hopkins truther Nate Hamilton in our 25 Statistics WR article, WRs caught their fewest TDs (84) over the last 10 years with the previous low being 97. Henceforth, total PPR points (3085.4) were the lowest they’ve been in the last decade.
But to go back to Hopkins’ TD rate, just how rare is 13.5%? Over the last four years, among players with 150 targets, which seems like it is Hopkins’ floor, he just turned in the second highest TD rate behind only Jordy Nelson‘s 2016 campaign. In other words, Hopkins’ hit the high-end part of his variance meaning there is major room for fluctuation, as TD rate is one of the least “sticky” year-to-year stats. Is double-digit TDs on the table? Certainly. But leading the league again in TDs is betting against the field. We’d be sharp to conclude the discrepancy in Hopkins and the rest of his elite WR counterparts will not be quite so wide in 2018. Even if we did give Hopkins 9 TDs, which is more akin to his career average, we’re now looking at a player returning more like mid-second round value than a top 8 selection.
3. His Draft Price is His Ceiling
This is a hard sell but imagine that you and I are buying a car. The highest price and the best condition of that car are when you go to visit the lot and examine all the bells and whistles on that automobile. You understand that when you drive it off the lot the value drastically decreases. You can turn right around and take the keys back to the salesman immediately but nevertheless, you’re paying top dollar and expecting nothing less than top performance. Hopkins is that flashy car which you expect should have zero hiccups based on the price you are buying him at.
Over the last 5 years in PPR leagues, the 8th overall RB/WR has netted roughly 304 points. I bring this up because, in order for Hopkins to return his current 1.08 PPR draft price according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, there are a number of statistical measures that are pushing the threshold of his cost. In other words, he’s basically being drafted right now at where his ceiling lies. He would need to improve upon last year’s gargantuan target total, score 10+ TDs despite expected regression, and return to his days with a yards per catch over 15. The Texans would have to throw the ball more and rely on the run even less as Hopkins becomes an even more efficient wide receiver in terms of catch percentage. Despite his immense talent, I have found myself consistently passing on him in best ball at that price.
Based on how you project this Texans offense, you are hoping at best a simple “copy and paste” of last season’s magical run with Watson. In my opinion, there’s RBs and other WRs available (ODB, Julio) in that position I’d much rather take than Hopkins. In redraft leagues, it’s tempting to follow ADP and pencil in Hopkins as a mid-1st round pick. I see him more as an early 2nd and therefore I’ll be willing to pass on him at his current price. For Hopkins and every other WR’s full projections from Andy, Mike, and Jason, check out the Ultimate Draft Kit to see where they see him moving in 2018.