ARIZONA CARDINALS

ESPN’s Clay ranks Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins trade a top-3 NFL upgrade

May 18, 2020, 9:43 AM | Updated: 2:37 pm

Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) celebrates a touchdown catch by teammate Lamar Mi...

Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) celebrates a touchdown catch by teammate Lamar Miller (26) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

DeAndre Hopkins’ trade from Houston to Arizona was the first sign that the NFL’s offseason would be a doozy.

Largely regarded as a steal for the Cardinals as they swapped fourth-round picks and threw David Johnson’s contract plus a second-round choice into the deal, the Hopkins trade made them immediately better.

Johnson wasn’t going to play much with running back Kenyan Drake returning, and Hopkins gave them a clear No. 1 receiver while bumping the quite capable Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk into high-grade sidekick roles.

Was the Hopkins trade the best addition in the NFL this offseason? Almost.

ESPN’s Mike Clay rated it as the third-best position upgrade heading into 2020.

Cardinals GM Steve Keim and coach Kliff Kingsbury were not shy about their interest in adding an impact wide receiver during the offseason. It’s fair to say their mission was accomplished when they fleeced Houston by landing one of the league’s best pass-catchers in Hopkins in exchange for a package that included David Johnson. An absolute workhorse, Hopkins has averaged a target share of at least 30% while ranking no lower than 10th in targets, receptions, receiving yards and end zone targets each of the past three seasons.

Clay framed a ranking of the top 25 upgrades by reflecting who joined a team and who they replaced.

Hopkins replaced Arizona’s third leading receiver of 2019, Damiere Byrd, who on 46 targets made 32 receptions for 359 yards and one score. It was a breakout for Byrd that earned him a new contract with the New England Patriots, but the upgrade to Hopkins is obvious.

On 142 targets, Hopkins made 93 receptions for 1,143 yards and seven touchdowns for the Texans in 2019.

Clay ranked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ upgrade from quarterback Jameis Winston to Tom Brady as the second-best upgrade of the offseason, while leading the list was the Indianapolis Colts’ trading for San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who replaces rotation player Margus Hunt.

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ESPN’s Clay ranks Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins trade a top-3 NFL upgrade