One of the biggest breakout superstars of the 2015 NFL regular season was Houston Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins. How will he follow that up in 2016? Hopkins has a receiving yardage total of 1,410.5 for the season on NFL odds.
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Texans Will Have New-Look Offense
In a way, projecting what Hopkins might do is the toughest current receiving prop on Bet365 I could do. You can check out my prediction for Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown here on SBR Forum. There are also options for Cincinnati's A.J. Green, Atlanta's Julio Jones and the New York Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. I think it would be much easier to project them because they play on teams with established quarterbacks in Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan and Eli Manning, respectively.
Hopkins will be a challenge because no one really knows what the Texans have in new starting QB Brock Osweiler. But more on him in a minute.
The greatest receiver in Texans history and a likely Hall of Famer is Andre Johnson. In 2014, he was still quite productive with the team in catching 85 balls for 936 yards and three scores. But he was released last March after the Texans previously had given Johnson permission to seek a trade. Johnson had two years remaining on his contract and would have counted for $16.1 million against the Texans' salary cap in 2015. At his age and diminishing performance, Johnson just wasn't worth that kind of money. And Houston looks smart in retrospect as Johnson really struggled last year with the Colts and was released.
Dumping Johnson clearly made Hopkins the true No.1 option among the receivers. And he exploded for 111 catches (on a whopping 192 targets) for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those were all career-high numbers. He was third in catches and yardage in the NFL and seventh in scores. What makes those numbers even more impressive is that Houston used four mediocre-to-bad quarterbacks during the regular season and didn't really have a quality No. 2 receiver to take pressure off Hopkins. The QBs used due to injury or ineffectiveness were Brian Hoyer (who started most of the games), Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden. Hopkins became the first NFL receiver to register 100-yard receiving games with four different starting quarterbacks in a season. Meanwhile, receiver Nate Washington was second on the team with only 47 catches for 658 yards. Houston also struggled to run the ball with No. 1 back Arian Foster limited to four games due to injury.
That Texans offense will look almost entirely different around Hopkins in 2016. It starts with Osweiler, who was 5-2 as a starter with Denver last year in place of Peyton Manning but also pulled in Week 17 in favor of Manning, who then led the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Manning retired and most expected Osweiler to re-sign with the Broncos, but Houston offered more money. There were also reports Osweiler still wasn't over his benching. Is Osweiler any good? No one knows yet. He completed 61.8 percent of his passes in 2015 for 1,967 yards, 10 TDs and six picks, a rating of 86.4 that was actually worse than Hoyer's last season. He's now a backup in Chicago.
The new featured running back is former Miami Dolphin Lamar Miller, who also got a big free-agent deal. He's going to siphon touches from Hopkins as Miller rushed 194 times for 872 yards last year but he's also good catching the ball as noted by his 47 receptions. And the Texans got a No. 2 receiver to help open up the field in Notre Dame speedster Will Fuller, the Texans' first-round pick.
So what does that all mean for Hopkins? The offense looks much deeper and the Texans should be pretty good. They have a wins total of 8.5 on NFL odds. Hopkins, the former Clemson star, has a lot of reasons to have another big year -- and money tends to influence guys. Hopkins is entering the final year of his base rookie contract and is looking for a long-term deal with the team. The Texans picked up a fifth-year option on Hopkins' contract earlier this year, locking him in through the 2017 season, but it's rare for players of his caliber to play on that option-year deal. You might see the team get something done with him before camp.
Hopkins should be good for about 1,300 yards again but won't get as many targets with more weapons around him.
The Texans open the season Sept. 11 vs. Chicago as a 5.5-point favorite on NFL picks.
Free NFL Pick: 'Under' on Hopkins' yardage of 1,410.5 but not by much.