Every year it seems like there is a new receiver that establishes himself among the games best. Sometimes they stay that way for many years, and sometimes they fade just as quickly as they came. Some examples of guys who faded after showing a flash in the pan one year are Peerless Price with the Bills in 2002, when he caught 94 passes for 1,252 yards and nine touchdowns, Drew Bennett with the Titans in 2004 in which he caught 80 passes for 1,247 yards and 11 touchdowns and Michael Clayton who burst onto the scene with the Buccaneers, catching 80 passes for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie in 2004. Even guys like Dwayne Bowe had a few good years but were never able to stay at that level long term.
But sometimes, those guys become the real deal. Calvin Johnson broke out in 2008 for the winless Detroit Lions as he caught 78 passes for 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns. From there it only got better as he had over 1,000 yards receiving every year except 2009 in which he missed two games. He went on to set the NFL single season record for receiving yards in a season with 1,964 in 2012, for another bad team—they went 4-12 that season. He’s had four seasons of 10+ touchdowns in his career—yeah I’d say he was the real deal.
Larry Fitzgerald is one more of many guys who kept it going after a great campaign, like Johnson in his second season he broke out. He caught 103 passes for 1,409 yards and ten touchdowns. From 2007 through 2011 he had five straight thousand yard seasons.
So will DeAndre Hopkins end up being more like the first group of guys or the last two? Personally, I think he’s gonna be like the last two. He will be the next big thing. He has gotten better and better since he got in the league in 2013. He went from 52 catches his rookie year in the disastrous 2-14 season to 76 last season to 66 through eight games this season. He has 870 yards already this season, already more than his rookie year and on pace to shatter last season’s mark of 1,210. Furthermore in just a half a year this year he has six touchdowns, as many as he had last season.
Looking at him from this year in comparison to last year, he has taken the next step in terms of route running to complement his incredible athletic ability. He has already shown he can go up for jump balls, catch balls in traffic but now he has shown he can go over the middle, as he showed against the Colts and make big plays as well as just about any receiver in the league. The burden of being a #1 guy was firmly placed on him after Andre Johnson left, and Hopkins has shown he can take on that responsibility. This guy is the real deal and will be really good for a long time.