Now that the 2013 NFL Combine has wrapped up for the wide receivers and everyone has had an opportunity to see them all working out, they’re going to start separating themselves into tiers. One guy who will definitely rise to the top is a junior Clemson Tiger named DeAndre Hopkins. He’s one of my favorite prospects in the draft, and probably the safest wide receiver pick available. Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of his game.
| Ht || WT || Class || Ranking || Projection |
| 6'1" || 214 || Senior || 34th || Late First Round |
Route Running: Hopkins is probably the best route runner in the class. He can get off press with quickness and strength, and he sinks his hips into his routes, creating separation by accelerating smoothly out of his breaks. He’s savvy in setting up cornerbacks with great angles, and has the footwork and sneaky speed to get behind the coverage. His head fake with his double moves is lethal.
Catch Radius: The term “catch radius” refers to his length, body control, strength, and ability to catch the ball away from his frame and high-point it at the top of his jump. Despite being only 6’1”, Hopkins has long arms (33 3/8”) and big hands (10”), and he put up a 36” vertical jump. So on paper he looks like a guy with a big catch radius, and the tape confirms it.
He’s aggressive attacking the ball in the air and consistently wins jump ball battles. His hands are exceptionally strong (there’s a video on YouTube of him catching 34 consecutive balls from the JUGS machine—one-handed), and he routinely served as a safety valve for Tajh Boyd with his ability to snatch most balls thrown in his vicinity. He’s also strong at the catch point, boxing out corners and powering through arm tackles.
Attitude: He’s an aggressive, competitive kid who spends a lot of time in the weight room and a lot of time perfecting his craft. He really stepped up his game on the big stage, with perhaps the best performance of his career coming against LSU in their bowl game (13 receptions for 191 yards and two touchdowns). Despite Sammy Watkins being the premier athlete with all the hype, he never settled for a number two role. His statline definitely doesn’t look like a number two receiver: 13 games, 82 catches for 1,405 yards, and 18 touchdowns.
Size: At 6’1” and 214 pounds, he doesn’t have prototypical size for a number one wide receiver.
Speed: He never looks like the fastest guy on the field, occasionally being tracked down and tackled after flashing behind the defense for a deep catch. He confirmed that by running a 4.57 forty yard dash at the Combine.
He’s not the flashiest guy on the field, and he’ll never be the biggest or fastest, but DeAndre Hopkins is an exceptional wide receiver prospect with a very high floor. His relative lack of size and foot-speed may lead him to fall to the lower half of the first round; but his skillset very closely mirrors that of Reggie Wayne and Anquan Boldin, and he should be drafted in the late first or second round like they were. And he should have a long, productive, valuable career just like they have.