The Path to WR1 Fantasy Season: DeAndre Hopkins

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Editor’s Note: This article is part of a continuing series from our Fantasy Footballers writing staff highlighting the possibility of potential WR1 seasons for 2017.

It wouldn’t feel right leaving DeAndre Hopkins out of our “Path to WR1” series. Our team of writers examined wide receivers who are currently ranked outside of the top 15 receivers in The Fantasy Footballers’ consensus rankings and hand selected which we feel have WR1 potential. We are not saying that these WRs are a lock for a WR1 season. The players we are highlighting in this article series have either the ability, talent, and/or situational changes that could help them jump into that top tier of wide receivers.

Time to dive into how DeAndre Hopkins could pull off a WR1 season in 2017.

2016 Season Recap

DeAndre Hopkins had his worst season since his rookie year in 2013. He was still targeted 151 times last year, which tied with Allen Robinson for 7th best in the league. The target volume is nice; however, he was only able to haul in just 51.7% of those targets giving him 78 receptions which were tied for 19th best. You can’t put the blame of production solely on Hopkins as his quarterback, Brock Osweiler was awful in 2016 with a 72% QB rating, second worst in the league from quarterbacks with over 200 passing attempts. Fellow writer Nick Martinez detailed in his Make Up or Break Up article earlier this offseason that there’s still reason to hope in Nuk’s return to fantasy elite territory.

2014 & 2015 Seasons

With Andre Johnson still the number one target in 2014, DeAndre Hopkins showed that he could outproduce Johnson with fewer opportunities. Andre Johnson had more targets and receptions but Hopkins had more receiving yards and touchdowns. Hopkins finished 2014 with 41 more fantasy points than Johnson in PPR making him the WR14 that season.

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In 2015, the Houston Texans, Brian Hoyer and the rest of the Texans QBs knew they had a special talent in Hopkins. Enough to target him 192 times, third best in the league in 2015. DeAndre Hopkins had his career best in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. He was the WR4 in PPR and the WR6 in standard leagues that season.

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The Path for 2017

Hopkins will face his challenges once again with the quarterback position. No matter who ends up throwing to him, as was the case in 2015, they WILL throw to him. The positive for Hopkins, the Texans will likely have to throw a lot in 2017 giving him plenty of opportunities. Since Brock Osweiler will not be throwing to him, the quality of opportunities should trend in the right direction.

Target Share– Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage combined for 583 attempts last season. Given the fact that a young, inexperienced QB will be under center in 2017, I believe 583 attempts is a good baseline for this offense. The wide receivers didn’t change for Houston so it should be easy math to distribute target share projections amongst the wide receivers. Hopkins has a career average of 140.25 targets, a number that half of the WR1s from 2016 were able to obtain. Hopkins has already proven that he can produce over 1,000 yards with fewer than his 140 target average.

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DeAndre Hopkins since becoming the WR1 for the Texans has an average target share of 29.07%. He should have no problems reaching that number or beyond in target shares given his “competition” from the rest of the Texans receiving options. If he is able to get 30% of the target shares as he has already accomplished on the 583 attempts discussed, then Hopkins could be in line for a cool 174.9 targets in 2017.

Catch Rate– Hopkins’ catch rate in his 2013 rookie season was an impressive 57.1%. He followed that up with 59.8% his sophomore year. In 2015, he produced a 57.8 catch rate. Last season was his worst catch rate at 51.7%. This undoubtedly has Brock Osweiler written all over it. I would expect his catch rate to increase back to the 57% range in 2017. If he can catch 57% of his 174.9 targets, he will be around 90 receptions this season. A number that only 7 of the 12 WR1s in 2016 had in their stat lines.

Receptions– A career average of 79.25 receptions which should be an accurate number heading into 2017. In his rookie season he had 52 receptions, he was still competing with Andre Johnson for looks. In 2015, Hopkins had an unbelievable 111 receptions on 192 targets. This was an outlier as the Texans QBs combined for a league leading 810 passing attempts that season. In his other two seasons, he had 76 receptions in 2014 and 78 in 2016, something closer to his average where I expect him to be in 2017.

Yards– DeAndre Hopkins’ career average in receiving yards is 1,121.75. Again, given his circumstances in his rookie season and the outlier 2015 year, this number should be right in Hopkins’ true range. This number in yards is typically what you would see from a WR1. The only way he doesn’t produce the yardage is if he gets injured or the QB(s) throwing to him this season is worse than Brock Osweiler.

TDs– With a guy of his talent, you wouldn’t expect a season TD average of 5.75. That is the reality here. Only two in his rookie season, six in 2014, eleven in 2015, and just four last year. This average hurts his chances at producing as a WR1 but may not necessarily be the end all be all. Neither potential quarterback for Hopkins has thrown a touchdown in the NFL and that is scary. To be fair, Tom Savage has only 46 attempts in the NFL and rookie DeShaun Watson hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL game yet. You can only hope that whoever is throwing the ball views DeAndre Hopkins as the predominant redzone target and targets him often.

WR1 Possibility: (46%)

When asking the Ballers writing staff “what percentage would you give DeAndre Hopkins to be a WR1 in 2017”, the answers surprised me. It’s good to know that the football educated world hasn’t fallen off the Hopkins train just yet. I think they know that having Osweiler last season put a damper on Hopkins’ potential overall production. The lowest percentage was 33% and the highest was 55%.

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The Fantasy Footballers have DeAndre Hopkins ranked right around the WR20, only 8 spots from obtaining WR1 status. So it isn’t such a far-fetched case for Hopkins. Given his career averages in target share (28.02% as the WR1), catch rate (56.6%), receptions (79.25), yards (1,121.75), and touchdowns (5.75), Hopkins clearly has what it takes to land in the top 12 WRs. His two biggest weaknesses that could work against his chances are the quarterback position and his average touchdown numbers. In Hopkins’ case, his positives should outweigh the negatives in 2017 giving him a fighting chance in his path to WR1.

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