As the draft quickly approaches many fans are wondering whom the Ravens are targeting with their first round pick. While I have my thoughts on that, I am more interested in who they are going to be targeting after that first pick. I’m sure that Tandon Doss is going to be given every opportunity to win that #2/#3 receiver position in the rotation (assuming Torrey and Jacoby are the top two on the depth chart). However, I think there should absolutely be competition. DeAndre Hopkins is a player who many may have heard of, yet few know very much about the Clemson wide out.
Size: 6’1″ 215lbs
2012 Stats: 82 receptions, 1405 yards, 18 TD’s
Media pundits will try to classify Hopkins as a good slot option and while I do agree to a certain extent, I actually think he is best suited for the X or Z receiver spot. When I watch him work the middle of the field I see a guy who keeps his head on a swivel (which is good), but he sometimes loses focus of where the ball is (which is bad).
Ultimately, he is pretty consistent over the middle, but I have seen some instances where he seems to be worried about getting hit or where he’s going to run rather than just making the catch. If the Ravens draft him, he’ll need work in this area because when he does focus solely on making the catch, he is money and can make acrobatic grabs with the best of them.
Granted, the QB play from Tahj Boyd didn’t help his cause as Boyd is an excellent downfield passer, but his accuracy seems to drop when he has to throw “touch” passes rather than a rocket, but I digress.
When Hopkins lines up at the X or Z position, he works the sidelines VERY well – his strongest quality as a WR. He does a great job with double-moves and he can stop on a dime when running comeback routes. He also adjusts nicely to passes in the air and he wins a lot of contested receptions as well. Against Florida State, Xavier Rhodes (a 6’2″ 210lb corner who is likely a top 15 pick this year) covered him for almost the entire game and Hopkins did a great job beating press coverage from Rhodes and keeping Rhodes off-balance. Another thing that I really like about Hopkins is he already knows how to set up corners for back-shoulder passes, which Flacco likes to throw.
He isn’t the biggest or the fastest guy on the field, but he has nice acceleration (clocked a 4.41 at Clemson’s Pro-Day). His frame is tight and muscular with long arms (34″) and big hands (10″). If you watch him play the thing you’ll notice is how he makes the catch, plants his foot, and then accelerates quickly to pick up nice yards after the catch (YAC). Much like Anquan Boldin, Hopkins rarely goes down on first contact and oftentimes he is still fighting for that extra yard as he is being brought down. When watching him you will also be able to see that he does – contrary to popular opinion – have enough speed to get vertical and score TD’s over the top. He won’t outrun many elite-speed corners, but his route running ability gives him enough separation to make plays down the field. Like I said earlier: wicked double move.
Ultimately, I don’t think he is a 1st round receiver and with guys like Cordarelle Patterson, Justin Hunter, Tavon Austin, and Keenan Allen getting most of the “WR buzz” I think Hopkins will drop into the 2nd round for sure. If he is someone the Ravens are targeting, then I think it would be wise to trade down from pick 32, pick up extra picks in the mid rounds, and target Hopkins somewhere in the top 20 picks of round 2. OR they could use their 1st round on someone completely different and move up in round 2 for Hopkins. I don’t know that he’ll last all the way to pick 64.
Current NFL Player that Hopkins reminds me of the most: James Jones with some route running elements of Reggie Wayne.