DeAndre Hopkins provides a boost to a struggling Titans receiving corps

2MDJAC0 Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) runs with the ball against the Tennessee Titans during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sep. 12, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)

Still one of the best pass-catchers in the NFL: Hopkins dropped just one pass in 2022 and just four passes over the past three seasons.

• Gas left in the tank: While his 2022 was marred by the suspension and the Cardinals' offensive struggles as a whole, Hopkins still racked up 717 yards in nine games.

• A boost to a struggling receiving corps: The Titans' receiving corps ranked 30th in PFF's preseason receiving corps rankings and fell outside the top 20 in most metrics last season.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The Tennessee Titans and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins made things official on Monday, with the star pass-catcher signing a two-year deal worth a reported $26 million with an additional $3 million per year available in incentives.

The 31-year-old veteran has been one of the best wide receivers in the game for the best part of a decade but suffered the first major injury of his career in 2021 and served a six-game suspension in 2022 for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. And in that shortened season, Hopkins put up the worst receiving grade since his rookie season, casting doubts about his future outlook.

A former first-rounder in 2013, Hopkins earned just a 69.0 receiving grade as a rookie but took off after that, recording a receiving grade of at least 81.0 in seven of his next eight seasons. His lone “down” year in that stretch came in 2016 when he put up a 76.8 receiving grade catching passes from the likes of Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage.

DeAndre Hopkins: PFF grades and rank since 2013
Season Receiving grade Rank
2022 73.5 36th of 102
2021 81.1 15th of 94
2020 88.0 6th of 101
2019 88.1 5th of 103
2018 92.1 1st of 110
2017 90.3 4th of 106
2016 76.8 27th of 104
2015 90.7 4th of 101
2014 90.7 12th of 100
2013 69.0 63rd of 107

While his 2022 campaign was marred by the suspension and the Cardinals' offensive struggles as a whole, Hopkins still racked up 717 yards in nine games. At that pace, he would have come away with around 1,354 yards over the full season, a top-eight mark in the NFL.

With Hopkins on the Titans roster, QB Ryan Tannehill will once again have an established top-tier wideout to target in the passing game, something the team has missed since trading A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The impact Brown had on the Titans was evident to anyone who watched them struggle to generate explosive plays last year. Meanwhile, Brown immediately showed his value in Philadelphia, as Jalen Hurts graded as a top-five quarterback and led his team to the Super Bowl.

Hopkins is likely not as good as Brown at this point in his career. However, his presence takes the pressure off Treylon Burks to step into Brown's old shoes, which has been the hope of many fans, given that the draft pick Tennessee acquired from trading Brown away was used to draft the former Arkansas receiver. 

The big-bodied Burks has the look but isn’t nearly as polished as Brown was coming out of college. And asking a rookie to replace an elite WR is asking for disappointment.

Tennessee Titans: Team-level receiving metrics and rank in 2022
Metric Rank
Team receiving grade 69.5 25th of 32
Yards per pass play 5.9 20th of 32
% of passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield 10.8% 22nd of 32
Expected points added (EPA) per play -0.051 23rd of 32

During his time at Arkansas, Burks lined up in the slot on about 84% of his snaps. Hopkins has been the opposite in the NFL, as he's lined up wide on nearly 82% of his snaps.

Despite Burks' relative lack of experience, the Titans asked him to run out wide 83% of the time, an extremely challenging transition, as it required him to beat better cornerbacks in man-to-man situations, learn how to deal with the sideline and face press coverage at a significantly higher rate than he would have in the slot.

While the Titans likely won't immediately move Burks to the slot, it allows them to be creative with how they utilize him. They can now let him operate in a position he’s more comfortable and familiar with.

Treylon Burks: PFF receiving stats from 2019 to 2021
Slot Metric Out wide
681 Snaps 149
82.3 PFF receiving grade 92.4
98/140 Catches/targets 29/50
1,567 Yards 665
2.43 Yards per route run 4.75
131.5 Passer rating generated 122.5

The Titans' WR room still has a lot of questions after Burks, as Kyle Philips, Chris Moore and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine will battle for the third wide receiver spot, with neither of those players grading above 63.7 in 2022.

The Titans' outlook for 2023 became better with the addition of Hopkins. He is still one of the best catchers of the ball in the NFL, as he dropped just one pass in 2022 and just four passes over the past three seasons. Having Hopkins will also open up the running lanes for Derrick Henry, something the star running back enjoyed when A.J. Brown owned the middle of the field for Tennessee.


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