The Arizona Cardinals have made it abundantly clear that All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is available via trade.
Hopkins, 30, is coming off a 64-reception, 717-yard and 3-touchdown campaign in 2022, after being suspended for the first six games for violating the NFL’s Performance Enhancing Drug Policy, and could provide instant upside to several teams looking for wide receiver help in 2023 and beyond.
“Any team that needs a wide receiver could use him,” an NFC East scout told Heavy, when asked to identify Hopkins’ best fit.
However, one AFC executive believes that Hopkins’ next destination will likely need to fit a very specific set of criteria.
“If there’s a team who needs a strong No. 2, possession-style receiver to take some pressure off of a younger No. 1 guy, that’s his best fit,” an AFC personnel executive told Heavy, speaking on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about a player on another team.
While Hopkins is a three-time first-team All-Pro, as recently as 2019, and appeared in five Pro Bowls, there’s some doubt about whether he is still the game-altering talent that he has been in the past.
“He can’t really run, but still has some playmaking ability,” the executive explained. “And, he’s not great in the locker room … He had a bit of a bad rep coming out of Houston and Arizona, which I think makes some teams reluctant to trade for him. At least that’s my guess.”
Given the executive’s suggestion that Hopkins would be best suited for a situation where he doesn’t sit atop the depth chart, and would be better served as a complement to a younger and more dynamic top receiver, here are three best guesses at Hopkins’ best fit:
The Atlanta Falcons have a very real opportunity to make very significant strides in the very winnable NFC South, presuming Atlanta figures out its quarterback situation in 2023.
Whether it’s Desmond Ridder, a first-round rookie, or a surprise splash signing Lamar Jackson, Atlanta checks many of the executive’s boxes for Hopkins’ next home.
Drake London caught 72 passes for 866 yards with 4 touchdowns and is clearly the future of the position in Atlanta. However, adding Hopkins alongside London and tight end Kyle Pitts would create a formidable trio for whoever is behind center, and a difficult vertical passing game for secondaries to defend.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a brief window to build around quarterback Kenny Pickett, in a murderer’s row of a division where they’ll square off with Joe Burrow’s Cincinnati Bengals, Deshaun Watson’s Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens twice each season.
Pittsburgh got a glimpse of how electrifying WR George Pickens can be, when the rookie pulled down 52 receptions for 801 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2022, despite wildly inconsistent quarterback play from Pickett and Mitchell Trubisky.
Hopkins would certainly create opportunities for Pickens, and command the attention of opposing defenses. Likewise, only dropping one pass last season, Hopkins could serve as a bit of a security blanket with big-play upside in Pickett’s second NFL season.
New York Jets
There is little doubt, general manager Joe Douglas and the New York Jets are all in.
Aaron Rodgers wants to play in New York. The Jets already signed Allen Lazard. And New York has been linked to free agent playmaker Odell Beckham Jr., including ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reporting on Thursday, March 23 that “both sides would like to see this done.”
But, what makes the Jets an ideal fit for Hopkins is the fact that he’d be an added and proven veteran presence in Rodgers’ supporting cast, and he’d have the opportunity to flank rising second-year receiver Garrett Wilson, who caught 83 passes for 1,103 yards and 4 touchdowns as a rookie.
A trio of Wilson, Lazard and Hopkins, with Rodgers slinging it from the pocket would be a formidable counter-punch to the prolific offenses in Miami and Buffalo standing in the Jets’ way of AFC East supremacy.
Obviously, if Beckham Jr. lands in New York, the Jets would be out of the Hopkins sweepstakes.