Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins improved in each of his three seasons at Clemson, catching 52 passes for 637 yards and four touchdowns in his 2010 sophomore season before exploding for 82 receptions, 1,405 yards, and 18 touchdowns in 2012.
The first thing you notice about Hopkins is his big-time junior-year production. Scouts get so caught up in what they think they see on film that they often forget about (or just dismiss) a guy’s stats. In a major conference, a wide receiver’s stats are the best way to predict future NFL success. Simply put, if he did it in the past against elite competition, he can do it in the future.
At 6-1, 214 pounds, Hopkins has good but not great height. He’s a very muscular wide receiver and he uses his strength to excel after the catch. He recorded a 4.51 40-yard dash at the 2013 Scouting Combine, which is outstanding for someone his size. It’s also worth noting that Hopkins has long 33 3/8-inch arms. That helps him pluck the football out of the air in tight coverage, which he does often. Hopkins has great ball skills all over the field, and he does a nice job of fighting for the ball downfield to win in jump-ball situations.
Hopkins is an excellent route-runner who knows how to use a defender’s leverage to his advantage. He knows when to turn on the jets, and he has the acceleration to do it. Hopkins comes out of his breaks sharply and uses his body well to shield defensive backs.
NFL Comparison: Roddy White
White and Hopkins have similar body types, although Hopkins is a bit thicker, and comparable overall skill sets. Both players can run the entire route tree, beating you on a quick screen or a go route, and both have plus run-after-catch ability.
Hopkins will be a great test for NFL scouts because he has all the tools to excel in the NFL and he should really be a surefire first-round selection. Let’s see if teams rely on the views of their scouting department—men who have watched a few of Hopkins’ games and believe that their eyes can best predict future success—or if they see that Hopkins is a tall, strong wide receiver with 4.51 speed and a resume of elite production in the ACC. In my view, Hopkins will offer value to whichever team drafts him because he's the top wide receiver prospect in 2013.
Fit In Dallas
I bring up Hopkins name because it appears as though the Cowboys are in the market for a wide receiver. They won’t consider one in the first round, but I’d say they could upgrade the position from the second round on. I don’t think Hopkins will last until their pick in the second round, but there’s an outside possibility.
Everyone wants the Cowboys to target a small slot receiver like Tavon Austin, but they’re correct in searching for a big, physical player at the position. In addition to tall receivers historically playing far better than shorter ones, the Cowboys need a player to man the outside in three-receiver sets and in the event that either Dez Bryant or Miles Austin get injured.
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Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.