What wide receiver(s) in next month's draft, could replace DeAndre Hopkins?

2020 NFL Draft: Wide receivers and the Houston Texans

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Last week, the Houston Texans traded one of the game's best wide receivers, DeAndre Hopkins, along with a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for running back, David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick. Houston went on to sign Randall Cobb to replace some of Hopkins' production, but the team will look towards the draft to find Hopkins' long-term replacement.

I've studied 20 NFL prospects at the wide receiver position with an eye towards the Texans. If you've followed my draft evaluations for the past decade, you'll know that my rankings typically look different from the majority opinion. I block out most outside noise around this time of year and come to my conclusions based solely off of my personal film study. I'll miss some and I'll hit on some.

I also include comparisons to other receivers that have entered the NFL Draft in the past, in hopes to paint a better picture for your mind's eye. These players' comps usually display similar height and weight with similar attributes like burst, speed, physicality, etc. The comparisons are not to be taken as mirror images of the prospects in which they are linked to. These comps will not suggest future projections in stats or the exact location in which they'll be drafted.

I've ranked the prospects from 1-20 based off what I saw on film. I've also included some thoughts on a few players that may fit with the Texans.

1) CeeDee Lamb - Oklahoma (6'2 - 198)

40 Time: 4.50

Vertical: 34.5"

Draft Round: Top 10 Pick

Comp: Larry Fitzgerald

Lamb does everything naturally and effortlessly, while maintaining unusual body control. A natural hands catcher that will pluck everything, even through contact. Slippery and elusive after the catch. Lamb should be out of the Texans reach, even with a possible trade up.


2) Jerry Jeudy - Alabama (6'1 - 193)

40 Time: 4.45

Vertical: 35"

Draft Round: Top 15 Pick

Comp: Stefon Diggs

Jeudy, like Lamb, would have been ideal replacements for DeAndre Hopkins in Houston. He's a premier route-runner that has an amazing understanding of setting up the route. His quickness and explosion makes him unguardable vs man or zone. Again, it's hard to imagine the Texans moving up as high in the first round as it would take, to secure Jeudy or Lamb.


3) Denzel Mims - Baylor (6'3 - 207)

40 Time: 4.38

Vertical: 38.5"

Draft Round: Top 20 Pick

Comp: AJ Green

This is where the draft gets interesting for the Houston Texans, in regards to possibly moving up and selecting a wide receiver. Houston could create a package with their two 2nd round picks and attempt to move up for Mims. He'd be a huge step to replacing DeAndre Hopkins. Not only would they secure him at a rookie wage, much below the cost of Hopkins, at a time when they are looking to save in areas, while paying big to extend Deshaun Watson and Laremy Tunsil. Move up to the first round would give them a fifth-year option on the contract of their new playmaker. Mims is difficult to press due to his almost 34" arms, 4.38 speed that is seen in engulfing stides. Smart in setting up routes with the ability to adjust to any vicinity throw. A devasting blocker as well, that looks to flatten as if he were a tight end.


4) Jalen Reagor - TCU (5'11 - 206)

40 Time: 4.47

Vertical: 42"

Draft Round: 1st Round

Comp: DJ Moore

Reago could bring a his deadly juke step to Houston, which he readily displays in routes or on returns. He's fast and elusive in space. Reagor plays faster than his listed 4.47 speed and displays an ability to get over-the-top or burst through weaknesses in the defense. O'Brien has an affinity for speed at the receiver position. One could speculate that O'Brien may have traded Hopkins with the idea of running a Nascar offense. Houston already stables two 4.3 receivers in Will Fuller & Kenny Stills. While Reagor times in the mid 4.4 range, like Randall Cobb, he plays to a more similar speed of Fuller and Stills.


5) Bryan Edwards - South Carolina (6'3 - 212)

Draft Round: 2nd Round

Comp: Allen Robinson

If Houston decides to stick with the #1 receiver being a prototypical big-body, Edwards would make sense. The added benefit being that Houston may not have to move up from their newly acquired second-round pick to select Edwards. Bill O'Brien coached Allen Robinson at Penn State and may see the similiarities between Robinson and Edwards, specifically in their ability to make a Matrix style move off press coverage.


6) Henry Ruggs III - Alabama (5'11 - 188)

40 Time: 4.27

Vertical: 42"

Draft Round: 2nd Round

When you run a 4.27 and jump vertically 42", you'll get drafted a few spots higher than your film deserves, typically. Ruggs' game is all speed. He'll plant his foot off the line and go. He's a spacing problem. While he'll get caught up in man at times, he's a force versus zone coverage. In the NFL he will be used on jet sweeps and gadget plays, on top of his roles as a wideout. Ruggs will most likely go in the first round and 4.27 could be the type of flirt O'Brien saw at the combine that made him call it quits with Hopkins. If that's the case, then O'Brien would have to load up his two second round picks this year and probably more, to secure another speedster.


7) Michael Pittman Jr - USC (6'4 - 223)

40 Time: 4.52

Vertical: 36.5"

Draft Round: 2nd Round

Comp: Vincent Jackson

Pittman Jr gets back to the idea of the big-body receiver as Watson's go-to-guy. Pittman wouldn't require Houston to move up and would probably be available with their later, second round pick at 57, instead of drafting receiver at 40. Pittman always uncovers on his comeback routes. He'd give Watson a sure-fire chain mover that runs sharp routes, tracks the ball extremely well and highpoints.


8) Tee Higgins - Clemson (6'4 - 216)

40 Time: 4.55

Vertical: 31

Draft Round: 2nd/3rd Round

Higgins spent most of his college career in the spotlight, playing yearly in the college football playoffs. Standing 6'4 and making big catches, in big games from the likes of Trevor Lawrence could leave us with a bias opinion on the prospect, even before studying the tape. I believe Higgins is a good receiver that still has development left, but he's getting pushed up in the draft. He has great concentration and fights through press. His size and ability to track the ball are the only ways he consistently seperates. Against bigger, faster NFL cornerbacks, I feel Higgins will have his work cut out for him.



9) Tyler Johnson - Minnesota (6'1 - 206)

Draft Round: 3rd Round

Comp: Jarvis Landry

Johnson has the type of game that isn't ideal for offseason measurements. He's savvy in how he sets up defensive backs, while tracking the ball. He displays great concentration and secures contested catches as if he's in the backyard.


10) Justin Jefferson - LSU (6'1 - 202)

40 Time: 4.43

Vertical: 37.5"

Draft Round: 3rd Round

Jefferson is another receiver that is getting a lot of love. He's a fast slot receiver that can feast against zone coverages. I believe Jefferson benefitted heavily from the offensive scheme and Joe Burrow at LSU.


11) Van Jefferson - Florida (6'1 - 200)

Draft Round: 3rd Round

Comp: Victor Cruz

Jefferson, like Cruz can uncover so quickly off the line. He combines a great burst with sharp routes.


12) Quintez Cephus - Wisconsin (6'1 - 202)

40 Time: 4.73

Vertical: 38.5"

Draft Round: 3rd Round

Comp: Hakeem Nicks

Cephus will be a great value pick for some team. He'll go later than his talent dictates based on lack of deep speed. He has a knack for getting his numbers around quick and will be a starting possession receiver for some team, soon.


13) Antonio Gandy-Golden - Liberty (6'4 - 223)

40 Time: 4.60

Vertical: 36"

Draft Round: 4th Round

Comp: Kenny Britt

Here's another bigger receiver that may not fly by defenders but will earn any veteran quarterbacks trust with his ability to highpoint as a natural hands catcher.


14) Donovan Peoples-Jones - Michigan (6'2 - 212)

40 Time: 4.48

Vertical: 44.5"

Draft Round: 4th Round

Comp: Rueben Randle

Peoples-Jones vertical is eye-popping but his film shows a guy that will be a backshoulder weapon but not an all out star.


15) Brandon Aiyuk - Arizona State (6'0 - 205)

40 Time: 4.50

Vertical: 40"

Draft Round: 4th Round

A dangerous kickoff and punt return with a deadly "electric slide" step that he combines with quickness. He'll laul a defensive back to sleep in his route and then explode. Concerning nature of concentration drops are drops on contested passes.


16) Laviska Shenault Jr - Colorado (6'1 - 227)

40 Time: 4.58

Draft Round: 5th Round

Comp: Mohamed Sanu


17) Devin Duvernay - Texas (5'10 - 200)

40 Time: 4.39

Vertical: 35.5"

Draft Round: 5th Round


18) Lynn Bowden Jr - Kentucky (5'11 - 204)

Draft Round: 6th Round

Comp: Antwaan Randle El


19) KJ Hamler - Penn State (5'9 - 178)

Draft Round: 6th Round


20) Collin Johnson - Texas (6'6 - 222)

Draft Round: 6th Round

Comp: James Hardy

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As our lockdown continues, we are still doing our best to provide content to hopefully take your mind off of things. SportsMap will provide daily content for as long as possible.

Fortunately the Texans have given us plenty of ammunition.

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Now, back to the Texans. This is not a Bill O'Brien hit piece. My opinion of him is well known. Instead I wanted to reach out to the hardcore fan base and share their opinions.

The DeAndre Hopkins trade has angered fans more than anything I have seen in a long time. Maybe it is the added stress of the world falling apart, but fans rightly lost their minds. However, the daunting issue that followed is the way quarterback Deshaun Watson reacted. His cryptic tweets made it clear he was not happy with the deal.

It also has led to speculation that Watson himself could be traded.

Some sites have even gone so far as to speculate as to what a trade would like like. While such a move seems improbable, after O'Brien's deal to ship out Hopkins, anything seems possible. And while the Hopkins trade was a body blow, dealing Watson could be the knockout punch for a lot of fans.

However, there is a contingent that will stick with the team no matter what. I reached out to several of them to get their opinion of a potential Watson trade. The most common responses:

"It would suck, but this is my team ride or die."

"If they think it's the best thing for the franchise."

And even, "I trust Bill O'Brien."

I am not here to judge or argue. I have a lot of respect for hardcore Texans fans who support their team no matter what. I merely wanted to gauge what their response would be should the unthinkable happen.

Several were more than happy to share their opinions publicly, but I chose to keep everyone anonymous to prevent them from getting the inevitable Twitter "how the hell can you think that" responses. You can always attack me with that. I've made no bones about my thoughts on the Texans GM/coach. I wanted to give the team's most dedicated supporters a voice.

I was surprised there were a few who are not sold on Watson.

"If he decides to trade Watson, it is because he doesn't think he can win with him. Maybe people will realize Watson is just not that good. O'Brien had similar success with a lot of other quarterbacks. He even made the playoffs with Brock Osweiler."

The one response that really resonated - and maybe in these times we can all relate - was that hardcore fandom for many of them is about more than the team.

"My husband and I have had season tickets for years. We have sat with the same people, became friends, tailgated and traveled to road games together. For us it is about camaraderie, friendship, and the Texans have given us that. We would not give that up for anything. We just have to hope they do the right thing, but we will be there no matter what."

To me, that is the best explanation. There are relationships we all have around different things, and they are important. I've developed similar friendships through poker, horse racing, basketball and several other things over the years. Why not around a sports team?

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail, and the team will move on with Watson as its quarterback. If not, there is a contingent out there that will stick with the team no matter what. Those fans deserve a voice so that's what I have given them here in hopes that maybe those of us who don't get it at least understand where they are coming from.

If we ever get back to normal, these fans will still be at games, tailgating, cheering and having a good time. We should not fault that, just as they should accept that some fans will be up in arms.

It will be interesting to see how things play out over the next few months. Hell, we might not even have NFL football this year. O'Brien has undoubtedly lost some of the fan base, but it is hard to see how much. But we know there are always fans who stick with it no matter what.

Hopefully this gives some insight into why.



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