The DeAndre Hopkins era in Arizona is finally over after extensive rumors, speculation, and mock trades. Although short, Hopkins still managed an impressive three-year stretch, averaging 77 yards per game and 17 total touchdowns through his 35 games as a Cardinal. His time in the desert was highlighted by his debut year where he put up over 1,400 yards as a Second Team All-Pro.
It was not all sunshine and rainbows, though, as the duo of Kyler Murray and Hopkins only appeared in one playoff game in his tenure. Additionally, injuries and a suspension sidelined Hopkins for nearly half of his possible 34 games over the last two seasons.
As Hopkins leaves, the future for the Cardinals looks bleak, but the same doesn’t need to be said for the five-time Pro Bowler. There is no doubt he is not the same player as he once was, but in the right situation he can certainly still shine. After all, Davante Adams just put up 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns as a 30-year-old in a new situation. Hopefully, we can expect the same from ‘Nuk.’
Edit: NFL Network’s Mike Girardi reported money may play a bigger role in where Hopkins chooses to go, “more so than a ring.” With that in mind, the teams with more cap space may be more likely to acquire Hopkins than the ones with projected success.
Since his departure was announced, Hopkins has not been quiet about what he is looking for in a new team. We can imagine he would like to have some opportunity to win football games, so we can likely rule a handful of teams, as well as teams with no need for a new receiver or those who don’t have salary cap space.
Hopkins himself came onto I Am Athlete and gave us a good peek into what he is looking for: a good quarterback, a great defense, and stable management. He specifically mentioned Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Justin Herbert as passers he liked, in that order. We can take this as a list of teams he’d prefer or take it as a grain of salt considering. . . who wouldn’t want to play with those five studs?
Given all of this information, we can finally dive into Hopkins most likely landing spots and how they would fit him career and fantasy-wise.
Earlier, I noted Hopkins’ opinion on Lamar Jackson as a top-five quarterback, which may come as a surprise to some football fans. He is certainly talented in his own right, but has long had a reputation as a runner more than a drop-back passer. This could be a hint into Hopkins’ thinking. We know Jackson would enjoy the addition as he specifically requested the Ravens to trade for him as well as sign Odell Beckham Jr., one of which has been achieved.
This team will have security at signal-caller as Jackson recently signed a five-year extension making him the highest paid player in NFL history. The Ravens also have former first-round pick Rashod Batemon and star tight end Mark Andrews. With the recent acquisition of OBJ and rookie receiver Zay Flowers, the receiving corps is in a perfect spot: just good enough to take the pressure off of a star receiver like Hopkins, but not too much of a threat to take all of the target share.
The defense is also a very talented unit, highlighted by all-pro linebacker Roquan Smith. Overall, this team is deep with talent and ready to compete at a high-level, which is perfect for Hopkins to buy into.
What we could expect:
In all honesty, the Ravens have not had a super strong history of fantasy wide-outs with Jackson under center. Of course, they have not had anybody with the talent of Hopkins, but the lack of an ability to showcase a singular talent is a bit concerning. Marquise Brown is the highest fantasy finisher since Lamar took over and only managed to reach WR25 status when the season was said and done.
But, we know Hollywood is no Hopkins and it seems this team is pivoting to a more pass-heavy style under new OC Todd Monken. Hopkins could bring this team to a new level and this offense with Jackson back at the helm is scary. So, assuming Hopkins can hold up his end of the bargain, Baltimore would be one of the best fits we could ask for.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The better question is, why not here? The consensus best player in all of football, Patrick Mahomes, would be throwing Hopkins the football, a big upgrade from any passer he has ever had. Not to mention, they are reigning Super Bowl champions with the best odds to win it again, so they have to be on Hopkins’ mind.
Andy Reid runs one of the best offensive systems in league history and has shown they can produce elite pass-catcher seasons, with Tyreek Hill finishing as WR2 in 2020 and Travis Kelce finishing as TE1 in, well, essentially every season in recent memory. Hopkins asked for a strong defense, and while the Chiefs are merely solid, I think he would be more than willing to make the sacrifice.
DeAndre would fit right in, in Kansas City.
What we could expect:
Given Kansas City’s offensive prowess could unleash Hopkins to a level we have not seen since his days on the Texans. With the way the Chiefs’ utilize a variety of players and the expected emergence of Kadarius Toney, he may not be force-fed as many would expect. But, he should be more than capable of showing out on a team like this. Arrowhead may be his best bet when it comes to fantasy output with Mahomes and Reid, and we could expect a monumentally successful season from him even at his age.
When asked about his favorite quarterbacks, Josh Allen was the first name out of his mouth.
“One of my favorite quarterbacks that I’ve been watching since he came into the league is Josh Allen,” said Hopkins, continuing, “Josh Allen, he reminds me of a new-school Andrew Luck.”
This comes off the heels of Von Miller publicly beckoning Hopkins to Buffalo as a recruiter of sorts. A viral video from April from CBS where he was asked to use body language to react to potential suitors. We know he didn’t hold back with a somewhat-disgusted look at the Patriots, and when it came to the Bills, Hopkins gave a nice grin. Plus, this defense would be exactly what he was looking for.
What we could expect:
The Bills have been in need of another receiver to complement Stefon Diggs. Many thought Gabriel Davis would be the answer, to no avail. Hopkins could easily take this role, but may be limited on targets based on the large target share Diggs demands (physically and verbally). Unless he can fight his way to WR1 on the team this could cause some issues, but success wise, it would be a great move.
In fantasy, this might be one of the worse options, as Diggs is currently the better receiver and will be treated as such. The pass heavy offense will help supplement this, but cannot make up for the entire deficit between other situations. Football watchers should cheer for this to happen for the sake of the Bills’ success and an insanely fun offense, but fantasy-wise, this may not be the result we want.
A possible Deshaun Watson and Hopkins reunion? Their success together is indisputable. Over 38 games together, Hopkins averaged over ten targets a game and totaled 25 touchdowns. The Browns have made a lot of upgrades over the last few years on both sides of the ball and their reputation is better than it used to be. Their ability to attract free agents has been notable and they might be able to pull DeAndre Hopkins.
The Browns would definitely fit the criteria.
Watson himself said he would love to be back with Hopkins, but it would largely be out of his control. Watson. . .? And Hopkins. . .? And a Kevin Stefanski offense. . .? Forget about stopping the Browns.
What we could expect:
Of any team, the Browns may have the best offensive supporting cast to breed success for the team and Hopkins as an individual. Similar to the Ravens, Cleveland has multiple playmakers to take attention away from Hopkins without severely limiting his target share. Guys like David Njoku, Amari Cooper, and newly-acquired Elijah Moore will command defenses’ attention enough, not to mention their vaunted running game with Nick Chubb and Jerome Ford.
This might be somewhat of a sleeper pick for where Hopkins would want to go, but the potential is there. He would easily become the WR1 on this team without much competition and could contribute to a powerful offense. This may be one of the best destinations for Hopkins from an individual fantasy standpoint.
This is certainly the darkhorse team for Nuk. The Panthers were willing to give up a lot to get Bryce Young, meaning they have a high level of confidence in him. If they can get Hopkins to buy into their plan, they can sell the rest easily. And Hopkins is no stranger to playing with young QBs, as he stuck around in Houston during Watson’s early years.
Carolina also recently acquired Miles Sanders who should be a key contributor. D.J. Chark, Adam Thielen, and Hayden Hurst should further beef up this receiving group, and the defense already is considered to have significant potential. When it comes to contending. . . well, Vegas does not see it. Thielen said in an interview that he believes this team can win a Super Bowl, so there may be something to that. The division is not particularly daunting, anyway.
Interestingly enough, what they do not have in wins they can likely make up for in money. Over The Cap has the Panthers second of any team in cap room with $27 million, so if the bag is more important than the ring, Hopkins may be in black and blue next season.
What we could expect:
A lot of his success would be dependent on the play of Young in his debut season, but no doubt he will be the WR1. Even with mediocre play, you would expect the Panthers to feed him the ball, especially if he is on a big contract. This could be one of the better spots for him to land all things considered. If they see him as the piece that will help them reach the next level, fantasy success will follow.
Cowboys: With their presence in the media, Dallas always seems to be on the table for any free agent. Hopkins would be dangerous alongside CeeDee Lamb and could help bring Dak Prescott to the next level.
Jets: The newest, biggest star in the Big Apple (sorry Daniel Jones) could attract a big-time receiver like Hopkins. The defense is no joke, but Aaron Rodgers turning 40 could cause some uncertainty that would prevent a long-term deal. Even just one season with Rodgers, though, would result in a massive season for the veteran DeAndre. However, his target share could suffer alongside Garrett Wilson, Alan Lazard, Mecole Hardman, Corey Davis, and their tight end duo.
Lions: All of the sudden, Detroit seems to be in every football conversation. Their offense last season really turned some heads, but they seem to have enough new weapons already. This would be a solid landing spot at best and he’d form quite the duo with Amon-Ra St. Brown.