For the better part of the past five seasons, Antonio Brown was typically the first wide receiver off the board in fantasy football drafts. However, that’s about to change in 2019. Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has usurped Brown’s role as the best wide receiver in fantasy football and should be the first receiver taken in just about every fantasy football format.
Fantasy Football 2019 Season Preview: DeAndre Hopkins
For the first time in his career, DeAndre Hopkins had the fortune of spending a full 16-game season with a legitimate franchise quarterback. Hopkins had been one of the best fantasy football receivers when paired with the likes of Brock Osweiler, Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, and a well-past-his-prime Matt Schaub, so it stood to reason that Hopkins would have his best season to date with Deshaun Watson.
That theory proved true, as Hopkins finished the season as the WR4 in standard scoring. Appearing in all 16 games, Hopkins recorded 115 receptions for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns. The receptions and yardage were the highest marks of his career, while the touchdowns were the second-best total of his career.
Hopkins had the volume to be a fantasy star, but he was also one of the most efficient weapons in the Texans offense. According to Sharp Football Stats, Hopkins had a 60% success rate when targeted, tied for the best on the team. Success rate essentially measures whether a player picks up the required amount of yardage to set the team up for the next play, and Hopkins was the best at picking up said yardage.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about Hopkins is his week-to-week consistency. As previously mentioned, the former first-round pick played in all 16 games during the 2018 season. In those 16 games, Hopkins recorded fewer than 8.5 fantasy points on just two occasions, and never scored fewer than 7.1 points. Hopkins was never the reason you lost, but he had multiple weeks where he was the reason you won. Hopkins had five separate games where he eclipsed the 15-point mark, including three games where he exceeded 20 fantasy points.
Hopkins will be the first wide receiver off the board in most drafts, and with good reason. Hopkins has shown the ability to be a WR1 regardless of who’s throwing the ball, but he’s at his best when he’s catching passes from a true franchise quarterback. After years of making do with subpar passers, Hopkins finally has a consistent quarterback in Deshaun Watson. 2018 was the first year Watson and Hopkins played a full 16-game season together, and Hopkins finished as the WR4.
2019 should be more of the same. The Texans have the same quarterback and essentially the same group of wide receivers. Demaryius Thomas is gone, but Will Fuller and Keke Coutee are returning from their various injuries. Year-to-year consistency is the best thing for sustaining fantasy performances, and the Texans are essentially sending out the exact same group of skill position talent.
Fantasy owners shouldn’t worry about Fuller or Coutee taking targets away from Hopkins. Thanks to a series of injuries, the trio played just three games together in 2018. During those three games, Hopkins recorded 17 receptions on 27 targets for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Hopkins is the top option in the passing game and will always get his targets regardless of who else is on the field.
Hopkins is at his best in the deep part of the field, and quarterback Deshaun Watson should throw more deep passes in 2019. Houston added offensive tackles Tytus Howard and Max Scharping in the NFL Draft, and both players should start this season. Houston’s line was one of the worst last year, and it’s impossible that these two make things worse. Given more time to throw, Hopkins’ average depth of target should only improve.
Per Fantasy Football Calculator, Hopkins is currently projected as the seventh overall pick and the first wide receiver off the board in half-PPR scoring formats. This evaluation couldn’t be any more spot on, as Hopkins is the safest bet to finish the year as the WR1.
Hopkins has shown the ability to be one of the most consistent and reliable wide receivers in fantasy regardless of who’s throwing the ball but brought his game to another level with Deshaun Watson. He’s unquestionably the top target in the offense and is one of the most efficient players on the team. He produces roughly the same number with or without Will Fuller and you know what you’re getting from him every single week.
While a guy like Julio Jones might have a marginally higher ceiling, nobody has a safer floor than Hopkins. Picking early in fantasy is all about mitigating risk, and because of that, Hopkins should be the first receiver off the board.
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