DeAndre Hopkins carrying Cardinals in air through Week 3: By the numbers
Don’t include DeAndre Hopkins on the long list of inconsistencies for the Arizona Cardinals (2-1) so far in 2020.
One of the few newcomers to the offense, Hopkins hasn’t taken any time to get in a groove with his new team. Save for a missed route that Hopkins said led to quarterback Kyler Murray’s interception in Week 2, the X receiver has been a go-to weapon worthy of the contract extension he self-negotiated heading into the year.
Hopkins made 10 receptions for 137 yards Sunday in Arizona’s Week 3, 26-23 loss to the Detroit Lions.
“He’s doing a great job,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said after the game. “Thought he played within the offense this week and the ball came his way.
“He’s just a guy who finds a way to get open and when he gets the ball in his hands, he really makes plays with it. You see him in the open field making people miss, doing things to get the YAC (yards after catch) and that’s kind of his specialty.”
Here’s a look at Hopkins’ statistics on a deeper level to explain how the Cardinals are using him in Kingsbury’s offense.
Hopkins leads the NFL in three categories: 356 receiving yards on 32 catches and 118.7 yards per game.
He’s been prolific because he’s not wasted the many opportunities presented. Hopkins is tied with Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen with a league-leading 37 targets, and he’s caught 86.5% of the passes thrown his way, the 11th-best rate in the NFL.
In terms of target share, Hopkins is thrown to on about a third of all the Cardinals’ passing attempts.
While Arizona’s roster in theory has a handful of weapons at Murray’s fingertips, the second-year quarterback has been quite reliant on Hopkins so far. Hopkins’ 356 receiving yards have accounted for 45.3% of Murray’s 786 passing yards through three games.
Second on the team in total receiving yards is not Larry Fitzgerald, who had a catch for no gain Sunday, nor Christian Kirk, who had three catches on nine targets this year before injuring his groin in Week 2. Second-year pro Andy Isabella follows Hopkins with 114 receiving yards — even though he’s only played 24% of Arizona’s total offensive snaps.
Hopkins’ role in Arizona’s offense is obvious right now: Give Murray a quick out. Hopkins is an average of 6.7 yards downfield when targeted, a relatively low number. Among the top-10 receptions leaders through three weeks, that’s only higher than Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller and Los Angeles Rams slot man Cooper Kupp.
Last year with the Texans, Hopkins’ average targeted air yards was 10.3, the lowest in his career since the statistic has been recorded by NextGenStats.
Relatively, Arizona is getting him the ball quicker and much closer to the line of scrimmage.
Where Hopkins does the damage is, as Kingsbury said, gaining yards after the catch. He’s averaging 5.3 yards after the catch (YAC). That’s 1.1 yards better than NextGenStats’ xYAC/r statistic of expected yards after the catch.
Among the NFL’s top-20 receptions leaders, only Hopkins, the Bears’ Allen Robinson, the Chargers’ Hunter Henry and Washington’s Terry McLaurin have an average xYAC/r over 1.0 of expectation.
Hopkins is getting respect and making his catches with a lot of room to run. He’s averaging 7.0 yards of cushion at the snap — probably because teams don’t want to get burned deep — and has 4.0 yards of separation at the time of the catch or incompletion, according to NextGenStats.
Only three other players in the top-50 of total receptions through Week 3 have 4.0 yards of separation at the catch. No NFL player last year finished above 3.9 yards of separation on average, and while you could expect Hopkins’ average to sink as the year goes on, it’s presently an indicator that Arizona is doing a good job getting him the ball in space.
That’s impressive considering people were already quite aware of the damage he can do.
“Everybody knows his name, who he is on the field, one of the best players in the NFL,” Murray said Sunday. “Having him is obviously a huge deal. He’s been playing great and hopefully we can keep that going.”
All stats via NextGenStats.NFL.com and Pro-Football-Reference.com.