DeAndre Hopkins vs A.J. Green: Who Should You Draft First?

[the_ad id=”63198″]Your fantasy draft is underway, and you are about to make your first pick. You have decided to select a wide receiver. Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., and Julio Jones have all been taken. You have determined that your best available option is either DeAndre Hopkins, or A.J. Green. But you need to make a choice between the two Pro Bowlers, and precious seconds are being confiscated by an unforgiving time clock. Who should you select… Hopkins or Green?

Before we progress toward answering that question, it should be made clear that this comparison is not designed to disparage either Hopkins or Green. Both are exceptional wide receivers, have current ADPs residing inside the top 10, and are legitimate first round picks. However, it is very possible that you will be faced with the arduous task of choosing between these extraordinarily talented receivers during your draft process.

Hopkins is entering his fourth season, and has rewarded the Texans for utilizing the 27th overall pick of the 2013 draft for his services. After collecting 52 receptions for 802 yards as a rookie, his numbers expanded significantly. In 2014 he led Houston with 1,210 yards, which was 12th among all receivers. Last season, he firmly cemented his spot among the league’s elite wideouts by finishing third in receptions (111), targets (192), and yardage (1,521), while also tying for seventh with 11 touchdowns.

Despite his accomplishments, there are factors that could impede Hopkins’ ability to replicate his 2015 numbers. First, last season’s target total was massive, and matching it will not be a simple undertaking. Then, there is the matter of his new quarterback. 

Year Hopkins Targets Texans Total Targets
2015 192 619
2014 127 485
2013 93 633

Brock Osweiler has been labeled as both an upgrade and a downgrade by some within the fantasy community, when contrasted with Houston’s cluster of signal callers from 2015. But I don’t believe that we can truly generate a comparison at this point. Because the greatest certainty that currently exists with the former Bronco, is that he has logged a mere seven starts during his initial four seasons in the league, and therefore remains thoroughly unproven.

[the_ad id=”62257″]Lamar Miller appears destined to perform as a highly productive feature back, with the potential to be the most impactful free agent addition at a skill position among all 32 teams. His presence will allow Bill O’Brien to utilize him as both a rusher and receiver, which will effect Houston’s run-pass ratio, and siphon off targets. The Texans also invested draft picks in Will Fuller and Braxton Miller at the wide receiver position, and second-year wideout Jaelen Strong could ultimately emerge as a the most viable complement to Hopkins. Also, once J.J. Watt returns to the lineup, it is reasonable to believe that Houston’s defense can perform with a similar degree of resistance that they exhibited in their final nine games of the 2015 regular season. During which they held six of their final eight opponents to less than 75 rushing yards, permitted just 186 YPG through the air, and limited opposing quarterbacks to an 8:9 TD/INT ratio from Weeks 8-17. This is noteworthy given Hopkins’ usage before and after last year’s defensive resurgence, as he averaged 14.4 targets per game during Houston’s initial seven contests. After the defense performed more proficiently, his average dropped to 9.5 targets per game during the next six contests, and 10 over Houston’s final nine games.

While surrounding talent on Houston’s offensive unit should lead to a target decline for Hopkins, Green’s opportunities should rise. Which will enable him to expand upon an already impeccable resume. Since being selected fourth overall by Cincinnati in the 2011 NFL draft, Green has accumulated over 1,000 yards during all five seasons of his career, and reached double digits in touchdowns three times. After pacing Cincinnati in receptions, yardage and touchdowns as a rookie in 2011, he repeated that process again in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Last season, he led the Bengals in receptions, targets, and yardage once again, while trailing only Tyler Eifert in touchdowns. Green’s overall achievements in 2015 included finishing eighth among all receivers with 1,297 yards, and tying for 10th with 10 touchdowns.

He was the primary source of firepower on a Cincinnati attack that ranked a moderate 15th in both total offense, and passing offense. But as a result of offseason developments, some of the components that comprised last year’s unit will no longer be lining up with Green. The Bengals must replace a mammoth 153 targets, in the aftermath of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu’s departures. 103 of those were collected by Jones, who also amassed 65 receptions and 816 yards, while Sanu manufactured 394 yards from his 33 receptions.


Year  Targets Receptions Yards TDs
2011 116 65 1,057 7
2012 164 97 1,350 11
2013 180 98 1,426 11
2014 116 69 1,041 6
2015 132 86 1,297 10

It also appears that Eifert might be unavailable when the season commences, due to his ankle issue. If he is unavailable in Week 1, then Giovani Bernard will join Green as the only Bengals in the lineup that finished among the team’s top five in targets during 2015.  Offensive former OC Hue Jackson has also departed, and his proven track record as an architect for offensive success will not be easily replicated.

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As a result, Andy Dalton will be operating with a new coordinator, and attempting to locate six-year veteran Brandon LaFell and second round draft pick Tyler Boyd as his secondary weapons beyond Green. Fortunately, Dalton is extremely familiar with his new coordinator, as Ken Zampese has been his QB coach during the signal caller’s five-year tenure with the Bengals.  Of course, Dalton is also well acquainted with Green, as they have collaborated on 40 touchdowns during their careers.

So… which receiver should you draft first? The good news is that you really can’t consider the selection of either Hopkins or Green to be a mistake. Both receivers should supply an enormous amount of fantasy points to their owners this season. Among the many factors that have been examined, is the fact that Hopkins’ supporting cast has improved, while Green’s has been depleted. As a result, Cincinnati’s veteran wideout will benefit from additional targeting, while Hopkins will see a reduction in that same category. However, the belief from here is the Hopkins is the slightly better option. Because it is wise not to become so enamored with the concept of Green garnering additional targets that you dismiss Hopkins’ numerous attributes.

He just turned 24, works diligently to continually improve his game, and his commendable work ethic has been well-documented. Not only will it drive him toward becoming even more effective as a receiver, but should pay additional dividends as a result of his off-season work with Osweiler. The durable Hopkins has not missed a game in three seasons, and has also been on the field for 96% of Houston’s offensive snaps over the past two years.  Also, the fact that Hopkins flourished in 2015 despite the glaring inadequacies of Houston’s signal callers, and the absence of genuine threat at WR2, all bodes well for his chances of remaining highly prolific. Plus, Green trailed Hopkins by exactly 60 targets last season, and the anticipated boost in looks from Dalton still does not make it a lock that he will surpass Hopkins in that category this year. The roster additions that were made to fortify Houston’s attack should also create space for Hopkins to operate. This bolstered weaponry will also reduce opponents’ ability to focus as intensely on containing Hopkins. Meanwhile, opponents can now strengthen their focus on neutralizing Green, by deploying additional resources toward containing him. That should not prohibit you from drafting Green fifth overall among wide receivers. But there is sufficient reason to select Hopkins before Green, if Brown, Beckham and Jones are unavailable.


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