Former Clemson and current Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Deandre Hopkins went on record Thursday stating his belief that he is the No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL, pointing out he has played with less-than-stellar quarterbacks for most of his career, unlike fellow receivers such as the New Orleans Saints’ Michael Thomas and the Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones.
“I definitely think I’m the best,” Hopkins said Thursday, per ESPN. “I know I’m the best. Mike’s my boy. I love Michael … but he knows if I had Drew Brees my whole career what these numbers would be. Julio Jones knows if I had Matt Ryan my whole career… That’s my boy. I trained with Julio, too. He knows what these numbers would be.
“Those guys are definitely blessed to be in a position where, their whole career, they had a Pro Bowl quarterback — quarterback that they spent multiple seasons with. But I don’t complain. I don’t make excuses. I go out there and work.”
Since being drafted by the Houston Texans in 2013, Hopkins has the third-most receiving yards and catches in the league and second-most touchdowns despite catching passes from 10 different quarterbacks in that span.
Last season, the former Clemson All-American ranked third in the NFL with 104 receptions and 11th in receiving yards with 1,165.
On ESPN’s First Take on Friday, analysts Max Kellerman and Louis Riddick debated whether Hopkins truly is the NFL’s top wideout.
Kellerman argued Hopkins has the best case to back up his claim, even if Kellerman himself doesn’t really believe it.
“This is the question, is he the best? I think he has a hell of a case, and in fact, I think he would probably win the case based on the evidence,” Kellerman said. “Now there’s a difference between asking me would I take him, do I think he’s the best in my heart of hearts? No, I don’t. But if I had to sit down and actually make the most rational case, I think he wins it.”
Kellerman went on to say he thinks Jones is the best overall package as a wide receiver, and the Cleveland Browns’ Odell Beckham Jr. is the most talented, with Antonio Brown rounding out the top three receivers when he was in the league and the Cincinnati Bengals’ A.J. Green generally being considered the fourth-best before people began recognizing Hopkins and Thomas in the last several years.
But Kellerman believes Hopkins has the best argument of any receiver in the league for why he is the best receiver in the league because of how extremely productive he has been even though he hasn’t always had a Pro Bowl quarterback throwing passes to him or been in the most ideal situation for a wideout.
“Has he had Drew Brees as he points out? No, he hasn’t, and yet he still puts up those numbers,” Kellerman said. “Thomas, you can say well actually the best case can be made just in terms of productivity by Michael Thomas. But you can recognize — though he accounts for a huge part of that offense and percentage of the offense, no question about it — it’s still Drew Brees and Sean Payton and stability and usually a great someone out of the backfield, (Alvin) Kamara usually. There have been others. They have a really perfect situation for him, and he’s produced. …
“But is DeAndre Hopkins really in that situation? Has he been in that situation where oh this is just perfect for him? No. He’s not a product of a system. He does not have the most eye-popping talent. He has not had the most stability. Guys, all he does is produce! That’s all he does. He hasn’t even dropped a pass in the entire time! It’s been 13 years now they’ve been tracking this. He’s had the most receptions without a dropped pass. The guy is unbelievable. So, it’s two different questions. Who do I think has the best case for best wideout? I think Hopkins is right, whether or not I believe that. If I’m actually forced to look at it rationally, I don’t think I could prove otherwise. I think Deandre has the best case.”
Riddick weighed in on the argument from a different perspective, saying he would take Thomas over anybody else if he had to have one receiver go make a big catch for him to win a game.
“If I needed one guy to make one catch, all things being equal — you’ve got the best play caller, you’ve got a good quarterback, you’ve got a good scheme — but if I needed a guy to make me a play, make me a play with the game on the line, to run the best route with the most amount of strength, the most amount of precision to come down with that football, I’m going with Mike Thomas,” Riddick said.
“I see what Deandre is saying as far as if he had Drew and he had those targets with that scheme, he’d put up the same numbers,” Riddick continued. “But if I needed a guy to make a play, one play, crucial situation, perfect route, perfect quarterback against a quality corner, I’m going with Mike Thomas because I really do believe this guy just is not going to be denied, man.”
Kellerman made another point for Hopkins, saying he will be remembered far after he is retired for having historically good hands.
“One day, your grandkids are going to ask you who had the best hands of any receiver you’ve ever seen, and on a short list will be Deandre Hopkins,” Kellerman said. “He’s a name that you’re going to be talking about 50 years from now.”
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