Sean Pendergast

Will DeAndre Hopkins Make the NFL's All-Decade Team?

Is DeAndre Hopkins one of the four best receivers of this decade?
Is DeAndre Hopkins one of the four best receivers of this decade? Photo by Eric Sauseda
As "highest honors" go, the NFL's All-Decade team is, in a strange way, simultaneously significant and flawed. It's significant in that, if you're one of the 53 players to receive the honor, it's undoubtedly a feather in your cap when it comes time for conversations about the Hall of Fame.

It's flawed in that partitioning things off by decade is somewhat arbitrary. Yes, it's a convenient way for all of us to process the honor, but it penalizes a player who happens to enter the league toward the middle of a decade, giving him fewer seasons to accumulate the requisite body of work to be considered "All-Decade."

In case you're wondering, per Wikipedia, here is the process for selecting the All-Decade team:

"The team is chosen by members of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee. This committee consists of one media member from each NFL market (two for New York/ New Jersey owing to the market's two teams), a representative from the Pro Football Writers of America and 11 "at-large" delegates (primarily national sportswriters) for a total of 44 voters. These voters are asked to select two coaches and a total of 53 players, broken out as follows: two quarterbacks, four running backs, a fullback, four wide receivers, two tight ends, four offensive tackles, four guards, two centers, four defensive ends, four defensive tackles, six linebackers, four cornerbacks, four safeties, two placekickers, two punters, two kick returners, two punt returners."
All in all, I still love stuff like this, if for no other reason than it makes for fun debates. The Houston Texans have only existed in two of the league's several decades so far, and not surprisingly, they had nobody on the All-Decade team for the 2000s (2000 through 2009). Business should pick up for the Texans in the current decade when the All-Decade team for 2010 through 2019 is selected after the 2019 season.

J.J. Watt, with his five first team All-Pro selections and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, is a lock to get one of the defensive end spots. The bigger question will center around DeAndre Hopkins, whose surge over the last couple seasons has vaulted him to "best current receiver in the game" status late in the decade. So let's take a look, and see what Hopkins' chances are of being named one of the four best wide receivers from 2010 through 2019.

Let's start with the premise that to be named one of the best in the decade, you have to have spent at least a couple seasons as one of the best in the game, i.e. you should have been named to the A.P. All-Pro first and/or second team multiple times. Here are all of the first-team and second-team All Pro selections at wide receiver for 2010 through 2019:

2010 ALL-PRO WR's
1st TEAM:
Roddy White, ATL; Reggie Wayne, IND
2nd TEAM: Brandon Lloyd, DEN; Calvin Johnson, DET; Dwayne Bowe, KC

2011 ALL-PRO WR's
1st TEAM: Calvin Johnson, DET; Wes Welker, NE
2nd TEAM: Larry Fitzgerald, ARZ; Victor Cruz, NYG

2012 ALL-PRO WR's
1st TEAM: Calvin Johnson, DET; Brandon Marshall, CHI
2nd TEAM: A.J. Green, CIN; Andre Johnson, HOU

2013 ALL-PRO WR's
1st TEAM: Calvin Johnson, DET; Josh Gordon, CLV
2nd TEAM: A.J. Green, CIN; Demaryius Thomas, DEN; Antonio Brown, PIT

2014 ALL-PRO WR's
1st TEAM: Antonio Brown, PIT; Dez Bryant, DAL
2nd TEAM: Jordy Nelson, GB; Demaryius Thomas, DEN

2015 ALL-PRO WR's
1st TEAM: Antonio Brown, PIT; Julio Jones, ATL
2nd TEAM: Brandon Marshall, NYJ; DeAndre Hopkins, HOU; Odell Beckham, Jr., NYG

2016 ALL-PRO WR's
1st TEAM: Antonio Brown, PIT; Julio Jones, ATL
2nd TEAM: Odell Beckham, Jr., NYG; Mike Evans, TB

2017 ALL-PRO WR's
1st TEAM: Antonio Brown, PIT; DeAndre Hopkins, HOU
2nd TEAM: Julio Jones, ATL; Adam Thielen, MIN

2018 ALL-PRO WR's
1st TEAM: DeAndre Hopkins, HOU; Michael Thomas, NOLA
2nd TEAM: Julio Jones, ATL; Tyreek Hill, KC

Summarizing, here are all the wide receivers who were named multiple times to either first-team or second-team All-Pro during the period of 2010 through 2019 (NOTE: TheAll-Decade judging is on performance ONLY in those seasons, so any accomplishments before 2010 do not count for this exercise):

ANTONIO BROWN: 4x 1st team (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017); 1x 2nd team (2013)
CALVIN JOHNSON: 3x 1st team (2011, 2012, 2013); 1x 2nd team (2010)
JULIO JONES: 2x 1st team (2015, 2016); 2x 2nd team (2017, 2018)
DeANDRE HOPKINS: 2x 1st team (2017, 2018); 1x 2nd team (2015)
BRANDON MARSHALL: 1x 1st team (2012); 1x 2nd team (2015)
DEMARYIUS THOMAS: 2x 2nd team (2013, 2014)
ODELL BECKHAM, JR.: 2x 2nd team (2015, 2016)
A.J. GREEN (2): 2x 2nd team (2012, 2013)

So, I would say so far, so good for Hopkins, who is one of four players to be named to multiple FIRST team All Pro berths, and still with one more season in his prime to make it again. He is in good shape there. So let's narrow this down a little bit further. Below are the top ten players in receiving yards per game for the period of 2010 through 2019. I'm sure there are more advanced statistics we could use to get super granular, but I'm not sure that's what the voters do. I'm guessing this is as deep statistically as many of them will go:

1. Julio Jones, ATL, 96.7
2. Calvin Johnson, DET, 95.0
3. Odell Beckham, Jr., NYG, 92.8
4. Antonio Brown, PIT, 86.2
5. Michael Thomas, NOLA, 80.6
6. A.J. Green, CIN, 80.2
7. Mike Evans, TB, 79.3
8. DeAndre Hopkins, HOU, 78.3
9. T.Y. Hilton, IND, 75.0
10. Keenan Allen, LAC, 74.4

So six of the eight multiple All-Pro players are in the top ten here, so let's eliminate Brandon Marshall and Demaryius Thomas from consideration. So we are down to Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson, Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, and DeAndre Hopkins.

Now, if you're looking for the closing argument on Hopkins' candidacy, here it is. Below I've listed the quarterbacks who have started all of the games these six wide receivers have played in. Brace yourself:

1. JULIO JONES, 111 games
Matt Ryan 111 starts

2. CALVIN JOHNSON, 90 games
Matthew Stafford 89 starts
Shaun Hill 1 start

3. ODELL BECKHAM, JR., 59 games
Eli Manning 59 starts

4. ANTONIO BROWN, 130 games
Ben Roethlisberger 119 starts
Charlie Batch 4 starts
Landry Jones 3 starts
Michael Vick 3 starts
Dennis Dixon 1 start

5. A.J. GREEN, 111 games
Andy Dalton 107 starts
A.J. McCarron 3 starts
Jeff Driskel 1 start

6. DeANDRE HOPKINS, 95 games
Deshaun Watson 22 starts
Brock Osweiler 14 starts
Ryan Fitzpatrick 12 starts
Case Keenum 10 starts
Brian Hoyer 9 starts
Tom Savage 9 starts
Matt Schaub 8 starts
Ryan Mallett 6 starts
T.J. Yates 4 starts
Brandon Weeden 1 start

That is flabbergasting. I mean, it's something we were aware of, that harrowing list of quarterbacks-not-named-Watson that have been forced on Hopkins, but to see it depicted alongside the ultra-stability the other top wideouts have experienced really encapsulates the greatness of DeAndre Hopkins. All five of the other wide receivers played anywhere from 92 to 100 percent of their games with the same quarterback, and with quarterbacks MUCH better than anybody not named Watson on Hopkins' list.

Hopkins has played 23 percent of his games with Deshaun Watson, and the rest with quarterbacks who have spent time with at least three different NFL teams in their careers, some way more than that (what up, Fitzy?). Hopkins is a remarkable freak of a pass catcher, and to that end, here is my prediction...

PREDICTED FOUR ALL-DECADE WR'S: Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast