DeAndre Hopkins, like Markus Wheaton, is underrated

December 7th, 2012 | Written by Rob Staton

We talked recently about how underrated Markus Wheaton is. For me, he’s the second coming of Mike Wallace. If you want a consistent receiver with the right attitude, explosive speed and a knack of making key players – Wheaton’s your man. And if I was a good team looking for a receiver in the late first round, I’d draft him and feel pretty smug about it afterwards.

Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins is another player who deserves similar attention. I’m surprised the media and other bloggers are still concentrating on Keenan Allen and Justin Hunter. I wrote a longer piece on why I don’t rate Allen that highly and in my last mock draft I left him out of the first two rounds. He has to run well at the combine because he hasn’t shown a lot of explosion on tape. And I don’t expect him to run well at the combine. Hunter looks the part, but just didn’t really convince this year within a productive passing offense. He allowed Cordarrelle Patterson to steal away some of his stock – and I’m not sure he started the year 100% recovered from a serious knee injury.

Hopkins is slightly bigger than Wheaton (6-1, 200lbs) but he has similar qualities. He’s incredibly smooth running routes and has excellent body control. He’s consistent and a reliable target. He’s not quite as fast running in a straight line, but there’s plenty of speed coming out of those breaks and he’s capable of making plays downfield. Despite the presence of Sammy Watkins on the Clemson roster (although Watkins was suspended to start the year), it’s Hopkins who’s really grown into the #1 receiver for his team.

This season he registered 1214 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. He’ll come up against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Years Eve and I’d recommend keeping an eye on that one. Despite only being listed at 6-0, somehow Hopkins appears bigger on the screen. If you want evidence of his big play ability, check out this long touchdown against Florida State, this downfield play where he just runs away from the Duke defense, this turn and run against Georgia Tech or his touchdown and two point conversion from the same game (just in case you were wondering if he can throw it as well as Sidney Rice or Golden Tate).

Alternatively, check out the video at the top of the piece showing every snap from Clemson’s game against Auburn from week one of the college season. He consistently flashes an ability to identify the soft zone, create separation and find space. And while speed and size is ideal for a big-time receiver, nothing is more important than simply being able to get open.

The Seahawks need to add at least one more viable target for Russell Wilson this off-season. Sidney Rice has stayed healthy this year, but he’s had issues there in the past. Right now, this team is a Rice-injury away from being really thin at receiver. Braylon Edwards is gone. Ben Obomanu is on injured reserve. Do you really want to be leaning on Jermaine Kearse in the playoffs? What’s more, it just makes absolute sense to make life easy for your young quarterback. And that means not asking him to throw to low-level receivers and create miracles. Russell Wilson needs as many good receiver targets as possible, which is why wide out and tight end have to remain a priority despite the recent upturn in production for the passing game.

Whether this team goes receiver or not in the first round next year remains to be seen. We’re a million miles away from knowing how likely that’s going to be. Even so, it has to be a target area. I’m not sure if the NFL will rate DeAndre Hopkins and Markus Wheaton as first round talents. I’m not sure if they’ll even get second round grades. They don’t tick a lot of the ‘conventional wisdom’ boxes. But if they’re on the board with either of Seattle’s first two picks next April, they’d be a great way to keep boosting this offense. If Brandon Coleman doesn’t declare for the 2013 draft, then in my view Wheaton and Hopkins are the two best receivers in this class.

43 Responses to “DeAndre Hopkins, like Markus Wheaton, is underrated”

  1. Clayton says:

    As always, great article Rob. The thing that I really like on the film that you provided on Hopkins is how much respect the defense gives him. Did you see how much cushion the DBs give him? That’s what we need… someone that the defense would fear and would have to gameplan for every Sunday. Also, I was wondering if you’ve heard of WR Rodney Smith out of Florida St.? He’s a senior and 6-6, 219 and fast. Maybe a late pick?

  2. Snoop Dogg says:

    I love how you don’t conform to popular culture. Thank you Rob!

  3. Turp says:

    How would you rate these two against Patterson?

    • Rob Staton says:

      Both less X-factor as a home run hitter, but more rounded and consistent. Patterson is a lot more boom or bust. Massive ceiling but he’s so unpolished as a receiver it’s untrue. Hopkins and Wheaton less likely to score every time they touch the ball, but could be a lot more consistent overall and thus offer greater contribution. The thing with Patterson is – are you prepared to take the risk?

      An example at how raw Patterson is:

      Markus Wheaton interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orhMijGvmPk

      DeAndre Hopkins interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfKNp72a8Rs

      Cordarrelle Patterson interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atlqjDb5ozg

      These are only interviews, but Patterson just comes across like a fish out of water in this situation. I’m not sure he’s ready to be a pro. It’s about more than just physical brilliance. But the situation at UT suggests he will turn pro and then you weigh up the pro’s (insane potential, size, athleticism) and the con’s.

      • GH says:

        wow, that’s a terrible interview by Patterson. Yikes.

        • Rob Staton says:

          They never really improved the rest of the year either. He got a little less nervous, but the answers were basically the same. Whether this means anything or not I’m not sure – but Wheaton and Hopkins just seem a lot more switched on.

          • GH says:

            maybe it’s something that can go away with age. But I’d lean towards the guys who don’t have the issue to begin with. You always hear how the WR challenge is the mental adjustment to the NFL. This doesn’t speak well to taking that next step.

          • dave crockett says:

            To me, Patterson is a guy where you may want to be his second NFL team after he has figured things out. If Patterson turns out to be the next Randy Moss I’d rather be New England than Minnesota.

  4. Jeff says:

    Pro football Focus (now on ESPN) ranks Seattle’s offensive line #24 overall.

    Lots of room for improvement there is one wants to help Wilson.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Football Outsiders ranks Seattle’s line at #9 for run blocking and #17 for pass protection. The line has given up the 10th least sacks this year. I’d say it’s a pretty competent line and we just need to give it time to keep growing and gel together.

      • Elijah says:

        A big discrepancy – PFF ranks Russell Okung as the 6th best pass blocking tackle in the league thus far this year, but Breno Giacomini comes in all the way at 54th.

        • Rob Staton says:

          And I bet former first round pick James Carpenter was also down the list when he played right tackle. Fact is – most teams have more than one dynamic rusher these days. And a lot of teams who don’t still match the superior pass rusher with the right tackle now. The difference in athleticism is so great between the DL and the OL these days that it’s almost unfair on the RT and it’s why it’s so vital to have a QB who can move in the pocket. Because they’re rushing in the line of the QB’s vision, a mobile player can avoid it by stepping up or scrambling out of the pocket. But there’s barely anything the RT can do to give themselves a shot. So unless you’re going to spend another top ten pick on a RT, there’s very little most teams can do. You cannot point to the performance of a RT in pass protection like this and simply say drafting a right tackle will solve the issue. Carpenter was drafted to do just that, and he got moved to guard to protect the first round investment.

          • GH says:

            That might be true for RT as a whole, but looked at in a ranking, Breno still ranks poorly, no?
            I feel that if a good RT is available, they should take him, and go for WR in round 2.

            • Rob Staton says:

              Well, I would guess there’s a large grey area where the tackles are all grouped with not much between them. And that group is probably the right tackle position down to a tee. And this is the point I would try to make GH. We’ve been down the route of drafting a right tackle in round one before and it was a failure. And while I appreciate not everyone was as high on James Carpenter as me, I thought he had LT starter potential in the NFL. And he struggled at right tackle and they moved him to guard. And pretty much every team in the league is starting a guy like Breno at right tackle (low cost, minimal upside etc). And as I mentioned before, it’s becoming increasingly harder to pass protect that right side these days. So the answer – for me – is the mobile QB. And we have that. We can spend countless first round picks trying to solve that RT problem but I doubt it’s going to go away. And right now, it’s not holding the team back at all. Not nearly as much as a lack of pressure on early downs, third down defense in certain games or the possible crisis at receiver should one of Rice or Tate get injured.

              • GH says:

                Ok. I see the argument. However, I would say that because we drafted Carp and it didn’t work isn’t the best logic for not trying to improve the position. For one, Carp was a LT, and he may have just been a miss, regardless of position. It doesn’t mean another player can’t nail down the position. And, by the same notion, if you DO get a good RT, you have a strategic advantage wrt the other teams. Perhaps a Pete Carrol zig while others zag..
                I feel that the Hawks, if they’re going to be a “run first” team that controls the clock, etc etc
                like Pete likes to talk about, they shouldn’t be afraid to dedicate resources to the O line.
                I’d also point out that they’ve already dedicated some considerable resources to the WR group (money to Rice, a rather high pick to Tate) and they just now seem to be coming together.

                I think this regime won’t hesitate to dedicate resources to the O line (I think bringing Caple in is evidence of this in its own right).
                But I see your point. It is a good one, and I appreciate your response.

                I just found this blog and I enjoy it. I’m with you on both these WRs.

                • GH says:

                  *Tom Cable.

                • Rob Staton says:

                  I would argue in fairness they’ve probably spent more resource on the OL than the WR’s. After all – they’ve drafted Tate (R2) and signed Rice ($$$) but they’ve also drafted Okung (R1 + $$$), drafted Carpenter (R1), drafted Moffitt (R3), re-signed Unger ($$$), signed Gallery and then cut him ($$$) and also brought in a top echelon line coach. I’d put Miller ($$$) in both categories given he acts as a receiver but primarily a blocker. So while I agree they shouldn’t be afraid to keep adding to the group if the talent is there (eg if Chance Warmack is somehow still on the board – but it’s extremely unlikely), I also think eventually you just have to back your judgement and the guys you’ve brought in to make this work.

                  And welcome to the blog, GH. I hope you’ll keep visiting now that you’ve found us. And spread the word to other Seahawks fans.

                  • GH says:

                    Oh, I think they definitely have invested more in OL than WR, but I do think they’ve invested a fair amount in the WR. I think you invest where you have problems, and ignore the sunk costs. To me, RT is a problem. I think an OL is more important than a deep wr corps, and Schneider comes from a program that has found WRs in the later rounds, if I’m not mistaken. I like that approach. I would like to see Fluker on this team. I also like Warford. But I admit I likely bias OL more than most. maybe those are 2nd and 3rd round picks
                    All that said, predicting this guys has proven to be pretty difficult! :)
                    Hope we didn’t hijack the thread/post with the OL talk.

                    One thing I like about your analysis of the WR’s is the emphasis on getting open and catching the ball. The focus on speed and athletic ability for the WR position is a bit crazy. Rarely have the best WRs in the league been the most “physically gifted”. The position has a skill set that it seems all scouts want to ignore because it’s hard to measure.

                    Your analysis seems to at least address it and try to address it.

                    Thanks for the welcome.

              • Michael says:

                well said Rob. The only complaint I have is that Giacomini is not only below average (which I agree is not a huge deal), but also seems to consistently hurt the team with his personal foul penalties. I like a lineman with a little attitude, but if he doesn’t clean up the flags some I wouldn’t mind finding a replacement via the later rounds/dupster diving approach.

                • Phil says:

                  Micheal – I agree completely. My only gripe with Breno is that he seems to be hit with penalties at key moments.

          • Elijah says:

            I wasn’t necessarily pining for a RT to be drafted. I think Breno brings enough attitude and run block ability to the position that he is ideal. He might never be a stud pass blocker, but if he can clean his technique up even a little bit, I think you’re looking at one of the better tackle tandems in the league.

      • Alex says:

        I would say the eye-test roughly correlates with what PFF ranked us. Our run blocking is above average, but other than Okung and Carpenter, no one really hits the second level. Our pass blocking is average and manageable with Wilson’s mobility.

        The truth is, a good O-line could turn a good QB to a great one while it could also work conversely. Tom Brady is one QB who needs a perfect cocoon of protection to work his magic. Drew Brees is another. Kurt Warner needs good time.

        Then there are the QBs of the world who know how to manage the OL and adapt. Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers fall into this category. At first Manning had an All-Pro at two key positions on the O-line- Tarik Glenn and Jeff Saturday- but as time went by, the Colts neglected the O line because Manning could manage. He then used the Edgarrain James after the pass setted up the run.

        Now, if you want a nasty, pure downhill running game, you do need invest into the OL. San Francisco is about average at pass blocking, but collectively as a unit they’re the best at run blocking. That line was built for run blocking.

        As a whole, I wouldn’t say our team’s run blocking has the ceiling of SF, but the center to left side has the chance to be better overall at both pass protecting and run blocking collectively than San Francisco. Until Moffitt gets healthy again, Right Guard is a bit of a mystery to me, but the only true area where we truly need an upgrade is right tackle.

        • Rob Staton says:

          While I respect the PFF rankings, I will refer back to the Football Outsiders rankings that have us at #9 for run blocking and #17 for pass protection. I’m happy with that. We want to run the ball well and we have a mobile quarterback. My eye test says this line has done a good job overall. They were poor against Arizona in week one, but Dockett had his way with Sweezy inside. They were dominated by Miami inside and the run game never got going. Yet I feel like I’ve watched a QB with plenty of time to throw, who has been able to make a lot of plays and hasn’t been under constant duress. I’ve seen a truly awful Seahawks offensive line, and this is a big improvement.

          I think Giacomini has been OK. The penalties have been frustrating, but that’s an area that has improved from the ridiculous start of the season. And you can count the number of respect RT’s on one hand. And I come back to my point to Elijah – The difference in athleticism is so great between the DL and the OL these days that it’s almost unfair on the RT and it’s why it’s so vital to have a QB who can move in the pocket. Short of drafting another left tackle and playing him on the right, I’m not sure what the solution is. They drafted Carpenter to play RT, a guy who to me looked like a LT candidate for the NFL in college. And they had to move him to guard to protect that high investment. The Seahawks more than anything just need consistency on that offensive line and not further changes. And they’ve spent a lot – more than most teams – on that unit in the last four years.

          • Alex says:

            my bad, I meant Football Outsiders. As I said, Kip said, run blocking is sub-elite (9th is about right) and pass pro is about average (17 is about right).

            • AlaskaHawk says:

              Carpenter is hurt again. It started with a play where Julius Peppers bull rushed him so hard that he landed on his butt. Not the first or last time that Carpenter will get planted by a good defensive linemen. I think we need more offensive linemen for backups – you know the team is desperate when they are picking defensive guys and trying to turn them into offense.

              • Colin says:

                Yes, taking a 7th round guy and seeing if he can make the transition to guard is really desperate…

              • Alex says:

                I don’t mind picking up more OL in the middle rounds (3rd-5th) because you can traditionally find serviceable or even quality starters in that range for all the positions except LT. What I would have a problem with is if we start picking OL in the 1st or 2nd round again especially when we’ve already invested as much as we have into the unit. I might understand if say there is clearly one player rated much, much higher than the rest (BPA by a far margin), which was the case with the Ravens in 96 with Jonathon Ogden, or if say there is a clear generational talent there (e.g. Steve Hutchinson). Otherwise, if there are players are similar grades, I would opt for one of the other more key positions e.g. a DT, WR, WLB, or even CB.

        • Unger is great at attacking the 2nd level as well. Sweezy is phenomenal at it as well, when he’s played (given how aggressive Pete was with him I suspect he views Sweezy as his future RG).

          I’d put Seattle’s run blocking in the sub-elite category. They are clearly below SF, but I’d put them in the discussion with any other run blocking group.

          Their pass blocking is okay. Remember early in the season when Wilson was running for his life? That was a long time ago, and in the last two months he’s basically had plenty of time to throw or make a move to get out of the pocket. Our pass pro is hardly perfect, but for Wilson, it’s perfectly adequate.

          I have nothing against drafting an OL early, I just really doubt it will happen. The only thing less likely would be drafting a 1st round QB, IMO.

          • Steven in Spain says:

            Agreed. The real problem with this line has been the penalties. That’s why our rating is so low with PFF. Penalties are complex and arise from a lot of different issues, but I’m not convinced the problem is with the personnel group as a whole. We have a young group who are very chippy, by design, and they’ve gotten unlucky with injuries which has set us back in developing any continuity or consistency on the line. Maybe they just need more time together. If we could just cut the penalties down to a league-average rate we’d have a well above-average OL.

            That said, I can’t say that any two individuals have stepped up and laid claim to the two guard spots, so we can’t completely eliminate OL from the gamut of possibilities. And it’s not impossible that the Seahawks take a pure BPA approach with the first round, or any round for that matter. We’ve got ten picks after all.

            As far as Giacomini is concerned, though, his job seems secure to me. Cable loves him.

  5. I’m a huge fan of DeAndre Hopkins. When I watch him I feel like I’m the only person in the world that knows I’m watching a future superstar. Why aren’t people talking this guy up? He’s the complete package.

    As someone that has insisted all season long that our WR group was just fine, I would draft Hopkins without hesitation in round 1.

    • Michael says:

      Kip, do you share Rob’s optimism regarding Wheaton? If they were both on the board at the ‘Hawks 2nd round pick which one are you taking?

  6. Darnell says:

    Hopkins reminds me of Roddy White.

  7. Jeff says:

    As noted above, the Seahawks lack depth at WR.

    Why then was Edwards cut at this point in the season? He seemed effective enough when he got the chance to play. He says his knees are fine. His tweet supporting Sanchez wasn’t that extreme. How can Kearse and Martin be preferable? Is there a back story that the mainstream media isn’t touching?

    Likewise Portis. Why now? Was he the guy who provided the adderall? It just doesn’t make football sense.There has to be a back story of some significance.

    On the penalties. It seems clear that the Seahawks suffer from biased refereeing. (See Cleveland last year,Miami and Chicago this year as prime examples.) It could be that any Seahawk right tackle would get flagged a lot. But again,there has to be a back story that the mainstream media won’t touch. Can it be as simple as a grudge against the Seahawks deriving from comments made by Holmgren years ago?

    • Rob Staton says:

      I honestly think that tweet did for Braylon. None of his business what happens in New York. Concentrate on the job here. We have a QB working his tail off and doing everything right. We don’t need receivers moaning about what’s happening with the Jets. Buy in or get out.

  8. diehard82 says:

    I’m much less enamored with Hopkins. Not elite speed, rarely makes someone miss, stumbles and falls easily, and not a large guy. He seems to have pretty good hands and has a knack for getting open, and he can make a good living in the NFL with those skills as a number 4 or 5 guy, but hardly worth a 1st round pick in my view. I think they are looking exclusively for impact players in round 1-3. Wheaton looks like more of a home run threat with elite speed and the ability to make people miss after the catch. It will be interesting to see which underclassman declare, then the real mock drafts can begin. And for the record, I think Seattle not only makes the playoffs but wins a game or two, and we’re picking in the 25-30 range, good value for Wheaton. Having said THAT, thus far every number one pick has been OL or DL. Remember, Thomas was taken with the second “luxury” pick after Okung. So it won’t surprise me at all if it’s another lineman like Jesse Williams, 6’3 320 lb DT from Alabama who benches 600 friggin pounds. He’s not currently the 3-tech with pass-rush skills everyone is pining for, but he’s another young mammoth who can eat up blockers, engulf running backs, and push the pocket. Like Carpenter, another unglamorous pick that keeps the building from the inside out.

  9. Stuart says:

    If we could get Wheaton in R-2 that could be perfect for us. The compaison to Mike Wallace has me thrilled about Wheatons future with RW…

    As far as R-1 OL choices, it’s highly unlikely that Jake Mathews would still be availalbe to us but if he was, he might be too tough to pass over. He could be a STAR at RT for over a decade. Even though Carpenter is hurt and the Guard positon is shaky at this moment in time, we really are in good shape there going into next season. As Kip indicated earlier, Sweeney will likely be our RG next season. With Carpenter at LG we have Moffitt, McQuisten and Rishaw Johnson as back ups.

    What are your thoughts about Jake Matthews if he did fall to us in R-1?

    • Rob Staton says:

      I would only take him if certain others were off the board. The team isn’t ‘a right tackle away…’ in my opinion. There are other areas where you can say… the team will benefit greatly with an upgrade there. If right tackle had cost us games, I’d be more pumped to go in that direction. And I like Mathews – in some ways more so than Joeckel. I don’t think he’ll be there simply because of the importance of the tackle position. But if he was, and he was by far the best option because a few other possible targets were off the board, then I’d consider it.

  10. Barry says:

    The issue I have with the O line is we don’t have a road grader. Power run teams try to go out and acquire them, we tried that with Carp, but so far it has not paid off. For the 49ers on the other hand the drafting of a few O linemen high has. I’m not sure what this next class of FA O linemen has and if we could sign someone who’s a stud at the RT position for a fair price I could see PC and JS going in that direction.

    The fact is that there are more starting O linemen then there are WRs and that would make the investment par.

    I’m not sure why there is a argument over the investment of WR vs OL? The whole offense if not team had investments since PC and JS have arrived. It’s just some have worked out better then others. You think we’d be talking about either if Lynched had not got his things together and became the player everyone thought he would be when he was drafted 12 overall? Point is there have been multiple times this year when we have needed to convert third and short and couldn’t. Three of those games we lost, Az, Detroit, and the most recent Miami. For this team to advance far we need to be able to pay our form of ball against anyone., something that’s there 90% of the time. And for a Power run team third and short should be that. Its how the offense is built.

    I one thing that’s been talked about on the blog is best player available. I love this idea and smile every time its brought up. Regardless where the team ends up at the end of the year I believe and hope this next years draft will be that great year when we do grab a BPA. It kills me every year teams like the Steelers and Pats just sit tight and talented players fall to them and they make it work because they are great organizations.

    Wheaton, Hopkins, Olgeltree, Brown, Jenkins, Cooper, or Warmack. Those are all players that could be possibilities and all of them would help any time in the NFL today. I have one question though, do you really think PC and JS would pass on Jarvis Jones, a player who would go as possible #1 if his long term wasn’t a question?

    • Rob Staton says:

      Carroll was at USC when they told him they couldn’t clear him to play with his condition. Which is why he transferred to Georgia. That, to me, makes me think it’s unlikely.

  11. Barry says:

    Rob, any chance you have some Hopkin Vs that Tide D film anywhere?