When it comes to all-time Houston Texans players, the very top of the list is occupied by players who took the league and the city by storm. Andre Johnson was the third overall pick in the draft, and was essentially The Chosen One as the first superstar of the franchise from the time he set foot in the league. J.J. Watt was the best defensive player in football by the end of the postseason of his rookie year. Arian Foster's first real start as the anointed bell cow, in 2010, saw him rush for 233 yards and three touchdowns.
For DeAndre Hopkins, though, it was a bit of a slower burn. He was drafted 27th overall, not 3rd like Johnson. He was flashing some potential by the end of his rookie season, but didn't appear to be ready to take the league by the stones, like Watt did. Even the undrafted Foster was a first team All Pro in his first full season, while it took Hopkins five seasons to get there.
As a true league wide superstar, Hopkins' rose may have bloomed a little later than those other guys (in no small part to having a band of misfits throwing him the ball until Deshaun Watson arrived in 2017), but when it's all said and done, he is in position to pile up more yards, touchdowns, and league wide recognition hardware than all of those guys.
To that end, on Friday of last week, Hopkins was named to the Associated Press NFL All-Pro First Team, chosen by a national panel of 50 NFL writers and broadcasters to recognize the best players at each position, for the third straight season.
For some context on Hopkins' accomplishments, here are some facts and figures, courtesy of a press release from Houston Texans PR:
"[Hopkins'] four career All-Pro selections tie Andre Johnson for the most by an offensive player in team history and the second-most overall behind J.J. Watt (seven). Hopkins also owns the second-most first-team selections in team history behind Watt (five).
Hopkins finished the 2019 regular season with 104 receptions for 1,165 yards (11.2 avg.), seven touchdowns and 68 receiving first downs in 15 games played. He tied for the AFC lead in receptions and led the conference in receiving first downs. Hopkins posted five games with 100-or-more receiving yards, which tied for the AFC lead and tied for fourth in the NFL. He has recorded at least five receptions in 18 games in a row dating back to Week 15 of 2018, which marks the longest active streak in the NFL, the longest streak in franchise history and ties for the fifth-longest streak in NFL history.
Hopkins became just the third player in NFL history to post over 600 receptions, 8,500 receiving yards and 50 receiving touchdowns in his first seven seasons. He also became the second-youngest player to reach 600 career receptions and the third-youngest to 8,000 career receiving yards. Hopkins tied for the second-most receptions (632) by a player through his first seven seasons in NFL history and tied for the third-most consecutive seasons with at least 800 receiving yards to start a career in NFL history (seven), trailing Jerry Rice (12) and Gary Clark (nine)."
I don't know much, but I do know that when you're a wide receiver, and your name is winding up in press releases with the name "Jerry Rice," you're doing something right. Here are a few more in-depth thoughts I have on what this honor means, and where Hopkins sits in his career seven seasons in:
DeAndre Hopkins should make the All-Decade team for 2010 through 2019
In a decade that was dominated early by Calvin Johnson, and in the middle by Antonio Brown, Hopkins has made a push late in the decade as the best receiver for the back third of the ten-year period, as the only receiver to make first team All Pro in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Julio Jones is right there, but he's been second team the last two seasons. There's a lot that goes into the All-Decade voting, I would assume, but if we are just tallying up the raw numbers tied to being THE BEST at the position (i.e.e ALL PRO) for however many number of years, it goes like this:
Antonio Brown: Four (4) first team, One (1) second team
Calvin Johnson: Three (3) first team, One (1) second team
DEANDRE HOPKINS: Three (3) first team, One (1) second team
Julio Jones: Two (2) first team, Three (3) second team
Michael Thomas: Two (2) first team
That's the extent of multiple first team All Pros in the decade. It should be noted that the four non-Hopkins players on the above list all had steady starting quarterbacks for the whole decade, ranging from solid performers like Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan to future Hall of Famers like Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees. If Hopkins isn't an All-Decade wide receiver, then just stop handing it out. By the way, my biggest fear is the likelihood of the writers giving the well-liked, but statistically deficient, Larry Fitzgerald a lifetime achievement award, and seeing him squeeze Hopkins or a more deserving player. (Actually, my biggest fear is snakes, but I digress.)
We've arrived at the nexus of the "greatest WR in Texans history" argument
Ok, here we go — seven seasons in, the numbers stack up like this:
ANDRE JOHNSON (2003 through 2009): 587 catches, 7,948 yards, 42 touchdowns
DEANDRE HOPKINS (2013 through 2019): 632 catches, 8,602 yards, 54 touchdowns
So, statistically, Hopkins is superior seven seasons in. The quarterback situations for both are fairly even — Andre playing with David Carr and Matt Schaub (when Schaub could play a little), and DeAndre with a bunch of ragtag journeymen until the last two seasons. The difference going forward will be Hopkins' playing with Watson for, presumably, the rest of his career. Hopkins is probably one more great season away from subjectively surpassing Johnson, and eventually he will sail past Johnson's career numbers. The really intriguing subplot is the big picture with both, which will take years to play out, but the main criticism's for Johnson's Hall of Fame candidacy are his underwhelming TD numbers and dearth of big moments. Hopkins is a TD machine, and should be playing in many big games over the next five or six seasons, with Deshaun Watson as his quarterback. Whose Hall of Fame odds are better? I'm not so sure Hopkins isn't the clear favorite, given the likelihood that Johnson gets lost in a growing crowd of deserving wide receivers.
Where does Hopkins wind up on the Texans All Pro radar for his career
Before we make the assessment on Hopkins, again courtesy of Texans PR, here is the official list of every All Pro accolade for the Houston Texans:
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HOUSTON TEXANS NAMED TO AP ALL-PRO TEAM
Player Pos. Season Team
DeAndre Hopkins WR 2019 First
DeAndre Hopkins WR 2018 First
J.J. Watt DE 2018 First
J.J. Watt DT 2018 Second
DeAndre Hopkins WR 2017 First
Jadeveon Clowney DE 2016 Second
Benardrick McKinney LB 2016 Second
Whitney Mercilus LB 2016 Second
J.J. Watt DE 2015 First
DeAndre Hopkins WR 2015 Second
J.J. Watt DE 2014 First
J.J. Watt DT 2014 Second
J.J. Watt DE 2013 First
J.J. Watt DE 2012 First
Duane Brown LT 2012 First
Andre Johnson WR 2012 Second
Duane Brown LT 2011 Second
Brian Cushing LB 2011 Second
Arian Foster RB 2011 Second
Johnathan Joseph CB 2011 Second
Arian Foster RB 2010 First
Vonta Leach FB 2010 First
Andre Johnson WR 2009 First
Brian Cushing LB 2009 Second
Andre Johnson WR 2008 First
Mario Williams DE 2007 Second
DeMeco Ryans LB 2007 Second
Andre Johnson WR 2006 Second
Jerome Mathis KR 2005 First
The press release says Watt is a "seven time All Pro," but that's because the stupid system they use to select players allows for the media to decide what position to label guys. So Watt made it at defensive end and defensive tackle in two seasons. He's really a first team All-Pro PLAYER in five seasons. Hopkins has now been a first teamer in three seasons. The race for "most first team All Pro nods" between Watt and Hopkins should be fun. Hopkins feels like an automatic pick for at least a few more seasons, while Watt may still have one more MONSTER season (provided he is healthy) left in the tank. Beyond those two, it's hard to find someone on the roster who will get even close to five first team All Pro selections. Watson is an obvious discussion point, but there is only ONE quarterback chosen each year, so that is a HIGH degree of difficulty.
It was nice to see Hopkins have some postseason success on Saturday
Going into Saturday's win over the Bills, as great as Hopkins has been during the regular season, he had never had a playoff game with more than six catches or more than 70 yards. He'd played in a total of four playoff games. He is still looking for a seven catch game, but he did gain 90 yards against the Bills, and the best part of that performance was that 85 of those yards came after his fumble in the third quarter. Here's hoping for some big moments in Kansas City to add to the Hopkins resume.