DeAndre Hopkins ended his collegiate career a year early to declare for the NFL Draft, and did so on a prolific note by tearing apart LSU's secondary with 13 receptions for 191 yards and two touchdowns to cap off a season where Hopkins compiled 1,405 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. Hopkins earned Third Team All-America Honors and first team All-ACC Honors.
Now, he can proudly take his talents that elevated Clemson's passing offense to among the best in college football to the NFL after being selected 27th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.
In need of more weapons in the passing game to take pressure off of All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson, the Texans liked what they saw from Hopkins to take the sure-handed former Clemson Tiger. Hopkins is the first receiver the Texans have taken in the first round since 2003 when they drafted Johnson out of the University of Miami (FL).
As a receiver, Hopkins has arguably the best hands of any receiver in this draft. He excelled in single coverage in 2012 and was one of quarterback Tajh Boyd's favorite targets. He is a physical receiver who is able to fend off defensive backs and has great body control when fighting for the football in the air. The Texans need a more physical presence out of their receiving corps, and Hopkins will only get stronger as a receiver.
The early knock on Hopkins was his speed, as he is not a blazer by any means, having been clocked at 4.57 seconds according to NFL.COM. But Hopkins is routinely able to use his NFL-type body to consistently separate himself from defensive backs and highpoint the ball. At the NFL combine his solid 10" hands allowed him to pluck balls from around him, and his great body control only adds to his impressive ball skills.
He is also regarded as a fine route-runner and is able to find openings in coverage. The Texans have stated that he is "fast enough" and that they like his ability to wear out defensive backs.
His ability to adjust to the ball is among the best in this draft. Hopkins could be one of the best steals in the draft at wide receiver, as many teams were mesmerized by the explosive speed and potential of Tavon Austin, who was taken by the St. Louis Rams at eighth overall, and Cordarrelle Patterson's versatility and raw potential as a receiver, who ended up being taken by the Minnesota Vikings 29th overall after they moved back into the first round to claim the former Tennessee Volunteer.
When comparing Hopkins to present NFL receivers, many point to the Atlanta Falcon's own Roddy White. Both are great route-runners and are able to consistently get open without having blazing downfield speed. And despite his 6'1" frame, he plays bigger than his size indicates at a solid 214 pounds. He fits right in with the Texans' blocking schemes and is a willing blocker on the edge on running plays.
In 2012 the Texans drafted DeVier Posey in the third round and Keshawn Martin in the fourth round, and while Posey contributed on offense he tore his ACL and Martin saw most of his time on special teams. Hopkins fills an immediate need and will step in to compete immediately, especially since Posey is likely to be out for part of the season.
Houston quarterback Matt Schaub will enjoy another prime target in the passing game to help open up running lanes for running back Arian Foster, as the Texans found that when their play-action game faltered, so did their offense. More threats in the passing game can help them take that next step forward in the AFC and keep them ahead of an Indianapolis Colts team looking to go further in year two of the Andrew Luck era under Chuck Pagano.
Hopkins has the potential to become a great starting receiver for the Texans. Before he knows it, the long chants of "Nuuuuuuuuk" will follow him from his home in Clemson, S.C. at Death Valley Memorial Stadium all the way to Houston,Texas at Reliant Stadium.