The 2023 fantasy football season is upon us. If you haven’t had your fantasy football draft yet, then you are probably neck-deep in your fantasy football player rankings.. Safe to assume you’ve already printed out and studied the Ultimate Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet? Good. What about doing some fantasy football mock drafts? Excellent. 

But even with all of that research, you are probably still staring at certain players, wondering if drafting them at their current fantasy football ADP is, not just giving you the proper value, but if they are even right for you or your team. Is the juice worth the squeeze? 

This is where we come in with our all-new Fantasy Football Player Debate series where two analysts go head-to-head and give you the pros and cons to help with your decisions.

Today, Colby Conway and Kevin Tompkins go head-to-head to help you decide whether you want to or even should draft Tennessee Titans WR DeAndre Hopkins.


Why You Should Draft DeAndre Hopkins in Fantasy Football

By Colby Conway

In his age 31 season, Hopkins isn’t the same elite fantasy wide receiver he was while he was in Houston. In his new digs, gone are the days where he’ll put up 100+ receptions on 150+ targets for 1,000+ yards, but in Tennessee, his efficiency could improve from years past with Ryan Tannehill under center, and he could be a hyper-effective fantasy receiver, especially if other teams throw all over Tennessee’s average at best secondary. After being a beacon of durability of Houston, Hopkins has dealt with some injuries the past two seasons, only appearing in 19 games, though that didn’t stop him from scoring 11 touchdowns, and his numbers over the 2021 and 2022 seasons across a full 17 games comes out to 95 receptions on 143 targets for 1,153 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Simply put, Hopkins is still an alpha WR1 who commands an elite target share. While he likely loses some of the volume he’s been accustomed to seeing due to Tennessee’s run-first offense, Ryan Tannehill is a steady, reliable quarterback who has 20+ touchdown passes in three of the past four seasons. Despite the run-first nature of Tennessee’s offense, Tannehill has supported an elite fantasy WR before, a la A.J. Brown in 2019 (WR21), and 2020 (WR12).

Can Hopkins still get downfield and win? Sure, but he's lost a step, we have to acknowledge that. However, due to his body control, ability to shield defenders, catch radius, and sticky hands, he is an elite threat in the intermediate passing game, and still serviceable in the short game. Oh, and wouldn’t you know, guess where Tannehill has graded best in recent seasons, per Pro Football Focus? The short-to-intermediate passing game.

Last year, Tannehill had the seventh-highest adjusted completion percentage on passes 10-19 yards downfield amongst quarterbacks with at least 60 attempts. Of receivers with at least 30 targets in that same 10-19 yard range, Hopkins had the 11th-best PFF receiving grade, and a 66.7 percent contested catch rate. Take a look at the graphic below, and just from last year, you’ll see how dominant Hopkins remains in the intermediate passing game, which is what Tennessee loves to exploit after Derrick Henry crushes the defense’s soul.

Hopkins is mispriced right now and that creates the buying opportunity we should all come to love for fantasy football purposes. Since August 1, he’s the WR21 off the board, and that’s just too low for his new situation, and oftentimes, he slips a bit in drafts. He’ll continue to command a massive target share, even if the overall volume isn’t the same as his time in Houston and Arizona, but his quarterback and new team’s passing philosophy aligns well with the strengths of Hopkins’ game at this juncture of his career.

Health willing, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Hopkins flirt with double-digit touchdowns this season. What he will lose in volume, he should make up for in efficiency, as his playing strengths at this point align nicely with where Tannehill’s strengths lie. At WR21, and sometimes going off the board closer to WR25, the value is most certainly there with Hopkins, and he can be comfortably drafted as your team’s WR2.


Why You Should Not Draft DeAndre Hopkins in Fantasy Football

By Kevin Tompkins

DeAndre Hopkins in 2023 fantasy football is a curious case this season. On one hand, he’s been a perennial fantasy football stud who averaged 158 targets, 111 receptions, and 1381 receiving yards from 2018-2020. On the other, he’s missed portions of the last two seasons due to injury and suspension and now finds himself on a new team after being released from the Arizona Cardinals. Hopkins now calls Tennessee home for his 2023 campaign, but can he reclaim the magic from yesteryear?

No, not to THAT degree. The 31-year-old Hopkins is merely a volume compiler at his current price of WR26 at the end of the fourth round, and he benefits from being at the bottom of a pretty lengthy tier of wide receivers that includes a lot of question marks. Players like Terry McLaurin (turf toe), Drake London (offensive volume concerns), Christian Watson (volume/target share concerns), and Christian Kirk (could be the second, third or fourth target in a given week) are drafted around him in ADP aren’t exactly the rosiest of wide receiver profiles. 

Last season, Hopkins averaged almost 10 targets per game and benefitted from not only the Cardinals’ sixth-best raw pass rate but also Arizona losing Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore and Zach Ertz for stretches en route to a 29.4% target share in the games he did play — fourth-highest in the NFL over that stretch of weeks.

Hopkins won’t have the benefit of pass volume in Tennessee as the Titans’ third-lowest pass rate over expected and fifth-lowest raw pass rate in the NFL last season doesn’t bode well for hitting the high-ceiling outcomes we’ve been accustomed to with Hopkins in Houston and Arizona. This offense still lives and dies through the legs of running back Derrick Henry.

While 120 or so targets for Hopkins is very doable, the efficiency for Hopkins is what worries me heading into his age-31 season. People will tell you what he DID — past tense — in his career. We’re not playing 2018, 2019, or 2020 fantasy football in 2023. Hopkins’ Open Score and YAC Score from ESPN Analytics is showing some pretty significant slowdown in Hopkins’ athletic profile, as Hopkins’ Open Score was good for just 34th in the NFL next to Christian Kirk and Isaiah Hodgins. His YAC score is more concerning, as he was 59th out of 82 wide receivers charted in 2022 by ESPN Analytics. Supporting this is a 42nd and 43rd best ranking among wide receivers with 90+ targets in YAC and YAC per reception, respectively. Couple those with a falling aDOT, a yards per route run falling below 2.00 (1.98 - 16th best in 2022), and we’re looking at a wide receiver who cannot create like he used to after the catch. It’s somebody that will need to rely on pure volume and gaudy target numbers.

Look, it happens. Most elite receivers begin to lose the athleticism as they turn the corner past 30 years old. It happened to Larry Fitzgerald, it happened to Hines Ward, it happened to Anquan Boldin, who is the best comparable to Hopkins here. We're just getting out in front of it here.

If Treylon Burks remains out or at least hampered by his sprained LCL into the regular season and Chigoziem Okonkwo doesn’t take a huge step in his route percentage (no game with over 60% routes in 2022), then defenses will easily key in on Hopkins on obvious passing downs. There’s no cover whatsoever for the Titans’ pass-catching group, as slot man Kyle Philips will be out for several weeks with an MCL injury. The depth is some of the worst in the NFL and while that might shift even more targets to Hopkins, how efficient and on-target will those targets be?

When I draft wide receivers in and around Hopkins’ late-fourth/early-fifth-round ADP, I use the exercise “who can I see being drafted in the top-two rounds next season” as a tiebreaker, and in every scenario I can think of, none of the answers include DeAndre Hopkins. I’m out at cost, I’ll let somebody else handle a declining asset. The move to Tennessee worked out well for older receivers with a lot of tread on their tires, like Randy Moss (33), Andre Johnson (35), Julio Jones (33), and Robert Woods (30), right?