[Note: Want to see a list of every player featured in our "Draft Target" segment? Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players. Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]
With Keenan Allen now reportedly planning to be absent for California’s pro day because of a lingering knee issue, I have been advised by a number of our great Twitter followers that the first-round-receiver bandwagon is now full of DeAndre Hopkins advocates. Of course I planned on featuring Hopkins in this reoccurring segment at some point, but those Twitter conversations convinced me that tonight should be the night.
Hopkins is 6′ 1″ tall and weighs 214 pounds and displayed great speed and hands during his time at Clemson. He ran the forty in the 4.50 to 4.57 range at both the Combine and his pro day (which was Thursday) which only confirms he has the speed it takes to be a top receiver in the NFL. His big hands and long wingspan only add to the traits Hopkins possesses that will attract plenty of attention.
Hopkins is known as a receiver that runs very precise routes and displays solid instincts after making the catch, with the ability to make the most of every pass heading his way. He takes good care of the football, protecting it to prevent turnovers, while also showing incredible body control which allows him to make tough catches on jump balls or near the sideline. His presence of mind, combined with a very good vertical leap, makes him a genuine red zone threat.
Hopkins has had troubles with catching the football with his body throughout his college years, but any scout is also going to have to give him credit for improving as a hands catcher over time. This shows that he works to improve himself and is a coachable young man.
More worrisome, to me, is that he seems to be manhandled by defensive backs too often and is rerouted too easily. He may need to bulk up a bit in the NFL, which could cost him some speed, but he also needs to improve aspects of his fundamentals to make sure he isn’t consistently jammed at the line by bigger defensive backs. The coachability that I mentioned earlier, however, provides hope that Hopkins could improve his technique in this area over time.
Hopkins doesn’t really have any injury history or character issues that plague him as he enters the NFL, and actually has gained quite the reputation as a leader within Clemson’s offense. He’s the type of guy that is going to haul in that deep over-the-shoulder ball, make the occasional toe tapper on the sideline, and be a constant threat when the game is on the line.
Most seem to project Hopkins as a second round talent, like so many other receivers in this class, but the lack of red flags makes it very possible that he sneaks into the first round. A number of teams, like the Vikings, could end up feeling very comfortable investing their top pick in Hopkins.