Pros: Generally speaking, plays bigger than his size. Dynamic and physical receiver in space who can be a legitimate yards-after-catch and yards-after-contact threat. Doesn't have a fifth gear, but manages functional field speed with good elusiveness on quick cuts, especially little nods on vertical routes. Will consistently bull through tacklers for extra yards. Excellent cuts on quick routes; will use them to gain instant separation, and then, it's off to the races. Adjusts well to defenders in front of his after the catch -- uses quick foot fakes and lateral agility to remain upright when some receivers wouldn't.
Outstanding boundary receiver who will bring in sideline routes and end zone fades with defenders on him. Consistently high-points catches and comes down with the ball -- 36-inch vertical leap was one of the highest among receivers at the combine, and that shows up on tape. Adjusts to the ball well in the air and will lay out to make the catch. Practiced at feigning routes and turning on a dime -- would seem a natural in any system with heavy option route designs.
Cons: Could use a bit more weight on his frame -- high-cut, long-legged player who occasionally gets clumsy with his feet in the open field. Not a returner at all -- had one of the more comical fair catch attempts in NCAA history against North Carolina State. Needs to better establish the sideline on longer routes when the cornerback has inside position -- tends to get muscled out too easily. Will occasionally short-arm balls thrown to him over the middle, though this doesn't seem to be a consistent issue.
What he brings to the team: The complementary target Andre Johnson has been begging for. Hopkins' real breakout game from an NFL projection standpoint may have been his last with Clemson, when he caught 13 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns in a 25-24 Chik-Fil-A Bowl win over LSU. That game was a great capsule of all his attributes -- he got open downfield quickly on vertical routes, got open underneath over and over with quick cuts, and continued to make plays even when LSU's defenders were beating him up. In that game, and through most of the 2012 season, Hopkins showed every attribute common to the best possession receivers in the NFL. Quarterback Tajh Boyd completed less than 20 passes in four of the last six regular-season games in 2012, and in a more wide-open system, I think Hopkins was playing at a level that would have netted him well over 100 catches.
Hopkins could have been a featured "X-iso" receiver for some teams, he might be even more effective as Johnson's new best buddy. In this receiver class, there's nobody that stands head and shoulders above him, and the more you watch Hopkins, there's more to like.
Was it the right pick? Without question, and this guy might be the missing piece that propels the Texans to a Super Bowl bid.
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