Thu Jan 3 3:18pm ET
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
File-This Dec. 15, 2018, file photo shows Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins making a touchdown catch on a pass from quarterback Deshaun Watson, not pictured, during the first half of an NFL football game in East Rutherford, N.J. Hopkins has 103 receptions for 1,425 yards which ranks second in the NFL. He needs just nine catches and 97 yards receiving to surpass his career-highs of 111 receptions and 1,521 yards set in 2015. But hes not just close to outdoing his own numbers, he has a chance to pass Andre Johnson for two franchise receiving records with a big game on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) pulls in a pass in front of Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) runs past Jacksonville Jaguars middle linebacker Myles Jack (44) after making a catch during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
HOUSTON (AP) DeAndre Hopkins had the best season of his career, carrying Houston's receivers in a year the group was decimated by injuries.
Now the self-described best receiver in the NFL will need another big performance for the Texans to get a win over the Colts in the wild-card game on Saturday.
''I feel like I'm a leader of this team, not just this offense,'' Hopkins said. ''I was named captain, so for me to go out and play my best game is important, not just for me but for this team.''
Hopkins finished the regular season with a career-high 1,572 yards receiving, which ranked second in the NFL, and his 115 receptions tied a franchise record set by Andre Johnson in 2008. His 11 touchdown receptions were fifth in the league and tied for the second most in his career after he grabbed a franchise-record 13 last season.
His performance comes in a season when the Texans lost starting receiver Will Fuller to a torn knee ligament in October, and Demaryius Thomas to an Achilles tendon injury two weeks ago. Houston got solid production from Keke Coutee midway through the season, but the rookie has missed the last five games with a hamstring injury, leaving Hopkins to carry an even bigger load than usual.
Coach Bill O'Brien is wowed by the sixth-year player nearly every day, and when asked about him this week he noted Hopkins had just made a nifty one-handed grab in practice a few minutes earlier.
''He just has a great skill set, really smart player, excellent competitor, can really make the contested catch, he can line up inside, he can line up outside, he can do a lot of different things, and he's come up real big for us,'' O'Brien said. ''He has 115 catches and they've all been important catches. He's a leading third-down target. ... He always impresses me.''
He's so good and consistent that second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson admitted he's tempted to throw it to him on every play.
''For sure,'' Watson said. ''Usually he's going to make a play happen regardless if you think he's open. If he's not open, he's open.''
Hopkins has a knack for making catches at key moments, with 81 of his 115 receptions resulting in a first down or a touchdown. And an even more impressive statistic, according to Pro Football Focus, is that he does not have a single drop this season on catchable targets.
After that statistic was released, a meme featured a picture of Hopkins with a bottle of glue in one of his hands bearing a label that read: `Hopkins' Catch-All Multi-Purpose WR, extra strong formula, no drop.' Hopkins was amused by the meme and his tweet of it received more than 68,000 likes.
But he said he's more concerned about being consistent than the fact he hasn't dropped a ball all season.
''That's my goal every day. Being consistent, not just on the football field but in life,'' he said. ''Playing football is something I love doing, and being named as one of the best is something that I work hard for because I think everybody wants to be the best at their position. Otherwise why would you play your position? So, to get that recognition from whoever made that, that was pretty cool ... I know that if I don't drop a ball, it's going to lead to something good.''
Watson didn't have to play with Hopkins long to realize he wasn't like most receivers and that his skills could help make up for some of the young quarterback's mistakes.
''I found that out last year when I was throwing to him. It's ridiculous,'' Watson said. ''My first start in Cincinnati last year, some balls there I kind of threw high. Some stop routes. I'd come over and be like: `Hey, it's my bad. I'm going to get it down,' and he was just like: `No, I want it just like that. I want it high. I want it outside. I want it low,' and he just found a way to get it.''
His production this season is even more impressive considering he's been hampered by minor injuries, but still started every game. While those injuries never kept him out on game day, they limited his practice time, which he acknowledges was difficult.
''It's been challenging not being able to practice with my guys like I want to, being out there, just having fun with the fellas,'' he said. ''That's why I look forward to coming to work every day, just being around my teammates, not just going out there and making plays on Sunday.
''It's been challenging from that aspect, but it's been good,'' he continued. ''My play has correlated to us winning games, so I feel like me personally, this is my best season. We won the division. Best record I've had since I've been here yet.''
And now Hopkins and the Texans will try to build on that success as they chase their first championship.
May 14th: Draft Values
New England Patriots fullback Dan Vitale would like to follow in the footsteps of the now retired James Develin. Vitale is aware that he has some big shoes to fill after Develin decided to call it a career due to health concerns. This marks his fourth season in the league, but the 2020 campaign will be his first with the Pats. James was a hell-of-a player, Ive enjoyed watching him, really since I got in the league now and he was really a role model at the position," says Vitale. He knows that being versatile and using his intelligence to the best of his ability are crucial to succeeding as a fullback in the league. It sounds like Vitale is prepared for his next step in his career.
New England Patriots defensive back Joejuan Williams is increasing his value through versatility this offseason. He played 82 defensive snaps last season, which is mostly due to the fact that the Pats were stacked in the secondary. The former second-round pick from 2019 will look to carve out a role as a versatile rotational player. He will likely play both defensive back and safety for the Pats next season. Williams is not expected to have a huge role on the team, but playing multiple positions should help him get on the field more often.
Although Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry is looking for a long-term deal, he's also fine with playing the 2020 season under the franchise tag. The deadline for the two sides to work out a long-term extension is July 15. Henry has made no mention of a potential holdout this summer. The 25-year-old has struggled with injuries in his four seasons and played in only 12 games in 2019, but he had a career-high 55 catches for 652 yards and five touchdowns and was still a top-10 fantasy tight end at season's end. Even with Philip Rivers out of town and either quarterback Tyrod Taylor or rookie first-rounder Justin Herbert at the helm, Henry will be a top-10 fantasy tight end target on draft day.
New York Jets safety Jamal Adams would like to be traded if he doesn't receive a long-term contract extension before the season. But the Jets want to keep him and extend him next offseason. The Jets aren't actively shopping Adams on the trade market, and Adams' agent doesn't have permission to facilitate a trade. The All-Pro safety's trade preference is the Dallas Cowboys, but that's not the only team he'd play for. Dallas has yet to call on Adams after discussing him at last year's trade deadline. Even if the Cowboys were to trade for Adams, they might ask him to wait until after his rookie deal to approach an extension. The 24-year-old has been a Pro Bowler in two of his three seasons and is in discussion as the top IDP safety heading into 2020, mainly because of his ability to play the box against the run and rush the passer.
Seattle Seahawks running back Carlos Hyde (shoulder), who signed a one-year deal with Seattle on Friday, underwent surgery in February to fix a torn labrum in his shoulder. Hyde played through the shoulder injury in 2019 and aggravated it in the Texans playoff loss to the Chiefs. It's a testament to Hyde's toughness that he played through injury to a career-high 1,070 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 245 carries for Houston last year. However, it's even more of a reason not to expect Hyde to have standalone value behind Chris Carson as veteran running back depth to open the regular season. At best, the 29-year-old will be a handcuff for Carson owners, and that's if Rashaad Penny (knee) begins the year on the PUP list.
New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco (neck) has resumed throwing, but is not expected to be ready to play until the middle of September. He started the first eight games for the Denver Broncos last season before going down with a neck injury. It's uncertain at the moment if Flacco will be ready to play by Week 1 of the regular season. Quarterback David Fales or fourth-round pick James Morgan could be asked to back up Sam Darnold to begin the season. More information on Flacco's injury should be known closer to the start of the season.
Free-agent running back Devonta Freeman thinks he's worth more than the one-year deal worth up to $4 million that he rejected from the Seahawks this week, and he insists he's willing to skip the 2020 season if his contract demands aren't met on the open market. Carlos Hyde took the deal instead in Seattle, which surely motivates Freeman even more. The 28-year-old made the Pro Bowl in 2015 and 2016 with back-to-back 1,000-yard, 11-touchdown seasons, but he's been declining ever since and has dealt with injuries the last two years before Atlanta released him. He's veteran depth at this point in his career with a bunch of tread on the tires, and he's unlikely to get a better offer than Seattle gave him. The Jets and Eagles still have some interest in him. Philly would be a better fit from a fantasy standpoint, where he'd be insurance for Miles Sanders.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson would love for the team to add wide receiver Antonio Brown, according to sources. Brown is also close with backup quarterback Geno Smith. Wilson surely wouldn't mind more playmakers through the air, as there are plenty of questions behind D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in the passing game, but a return to the NFL for Brown is probably unlikely at this point given all of his off-the-field baggage. And even if Seattle did consider adding Brown, it wouldn't happen until late July or August. A more plausible outcome would be Josh Gordon being reinstated by the league and returning to Seattle after playing with them in 2019.
Free-agent defensive end Everson Griffen has had strong interest from multiple teams this offseason, with the Arizona Cardinals believed to be one of those teams. Griffen is staying patient and waiting for the right opportunity in this unique offseason affected by COVID-19. The 32-year-old veteran played in just 11 games in 2018 and took a leave of absence from the team due to mental-health issues, but he rebounded in 2019 with another Pro Bowl season in Minnesota (eight sacks, one interception). The four-time Pro Bowler proved he still has some gas left in the tank and could help an Arizona defense with plenty of holes in it. The Seahawks are another team interested in Griffen.
The Seattle Seahawks still plan on using running back Chris Carson as their primary back in 2020 despite signing Carlos Hyde on Friday. Although Hyde could steal some work in short-yardage and goal-line situations early in the season, he's mostly just insurance with Rashaad Penny (knee) a candidate to miss the first six weeks while on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Carson suffered a season-ending hip injury late in 2019 like Penny, but unlike Penny, Carson is fully expected to be ready by Week 1. There's a lot to like about Carson when he's healthy in this run-first offense, but the problem is he always seems to be hurt. As such, fantasy owners feel better taking him as an RB2 with upside for more. Monitor his health this summer and during training camp. Hyde is unlikely to have standalone value unless Carson is hurt early in the year.
The Seattle Seahawks are signing running back Carlos Hyde to a one-year deal worth up to $4 million on Friday, according to sources. Seattle reportedly offered Devonta Freeman a very similar deal in recent days, but he turned it down. With Rashaad Penny (knee) a question mark for the start of the 2020 regular season, the Seahawks wanted some veteran depth behind Chris Carson, who is coming off a serious hip injury of his own. Hyde, who will be 30 this September, ran for a career-high 1,070 yards and six touchdowns on 245 carries in his lone season with Houston last year. He could slot in as the direct backup to Carson ahead of Travis Homer and rookie DeeJay Dallas if Penny starts the year on the PUP list. With a Seattle team that loves to run the football, Hyde could have sneaky appeal as a Carson handcuff in deeper leagues.
The New York Jets are signing quarterback Joe Flacco to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million on Friday, according to a source. The deal could be worth up to $4.5 million with incentives. General manager Joe Douglas was a Ravens scout in 2008 when the team took Flacco in the first round. Flacco had neck surgery in early April and isn't expected to be cleared until near the start of the regular season, but if he's healthy he'll compete with David Fales to be the backup to Sam Darnold. The former Super Bowl MVP with Baltimore is now 35 and was a shell of his former self in eight games with the Broncos in 2019. The Jets would be in trouble if he's starting games in 2020, but he at least can provide some veteran leadership as a backup upgrade over Fales.
The New York Jets don't intend on trading safety Jamal Adams despite the latest impasse in contract negotiations, according to a source. The Jets expect to eventually sign Adams to a lucrative contract that will make him a "Jet for life." However, Adams' camp is frustrated with the pace of recent talks and would like an extension before the 2020 season. The All-Pro safety is entering the final year of his four-year, $22.2 million rookie deal and wants his money now, but the team's brass wants to wait. The Jets say they haven't had any trade talks involving Adams since the trade deadline last October. Adams is refusing to take part in the team's "virtual" offseason program, and it's unknown if he plans for a holdout when training camps begin. But the Jets hold all the leverage, as Adams is signed through 2021 at a cost of $9.86 million and they have the option of the franchise tag twice beyond that. With the coronavirus pandemic also creating future financial concerns, the Jets would prefer to hold off on an extension.
The Washington Redskins running back room is packed with bodies, but veteran Adrian Peterson won't alter is approach and is competing for a starting job in 2020. "I've always had the mindset of being open to competition," Peterson said. "So I will embrace it the same way." Washington signed Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic in free agency and drafted Antonio Gibson in the third round. Derrius Guice and Bryce Love also remain on the roster despite dealing with injuries. McKissic mostly plays on third downs, but Barber and Gibson are real threats to Peterson's workload. Peterson has rushed for 1,940 yards and 12 touchdowns in his two seasons in D.C. and missed just one game when he was a healthy inactive. The future Hall of Famer will still have a role in 2020, but he's likely to be overshadowed by Guice and/or Gibson.
The Dallas Cowboys and quarterback Dak Prescott remain hopeful that a long-term deal will be worked out, but those talks haven't picked up in intensity in recent weeks. If a long-term deal isn't reached by July 15, Prescott will have to play on the franchise tag ($31.4 million) through the 2020 season. The Cowboys currently have an offer out to Prescott that would make him the second-highest paid NFL QB in terms of average per year, according to sources. Not only did Prescott have a career year in 2019, but he now has a receiver trio of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and impressive rookie CeeDee Lamb, not to mention one of the best running backs in the league in Ezekiel Elliott. An extension for the 26-year-old should get done before the deadline, and Prescott should be considered the No. 3 fantasy QB behind Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller V has struggled to stay healthy during his NFL career, but head coach Bill O'Brien says that "Fuller is doing great" after dealing with hamstring and groin issues last season. Having Fuller back and healthy is good news for the Texans, who need his field-stretching ability to help run O'Brien's preferred offensive system. A healthy Fuller could be a high-end fantasy WR2 now that DeAndre Hopkins is gone, but there's still so much uncertainty surrounding him, even if the team is optimistic about his ability to stay on the field in 2020.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has been impressed with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) in his return from elbow surgery. "You're getting a version that we all expect that he will be at. He's back," Smith-Schuster said. "He's doing what he's doing. He's throwing NFL passes, there's nothing more to that." Smith-Schuster had an extremely disappointing season with injuries mixed in, but it was mainly due to the fact that Big Ben wasn't on the field throwing him passes. When Roethlisberger's return, the entire Steelers offense should rebound if he can stay healthy. There's obvious risk with the 38-year-old QB, but if he is fully past his arm issues and stays on the field, he'll be a great value pick as a late-round QB2.
New England Patriots wide receiver Jeff Thomas has the best chance among the four undrafted receivers to make the team's roster. Thomas will be battling Isaiah Zuber, Will Hastings, and Sean Riley for a spot on the Patriots roster during the preseason. It sounds like Thomas has the best chance at securing a spot solely based off talent, according to Doug Kyed. He recorded 83 receptions, 1,316 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns through three seasons in college. It's unlikely Thomas would have much fantasy impact whatsoever, but maybe Bill Belichick has found another diamond in the rough.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire recently received some more praise, with his latest adoration coming from offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. "I think the kid's got some special traits," remarked Bieniemy before adding, "our players are going to help him to grow to become even more of a special contributor when it's all said and done with." The former LSU star will likely start the season mixing in with Damien Williams, with the rookie expected to see a gradual increase in snaps as the 2020 campaign progresses. While the 21-year-old could make an immediate impact, it is more likely he becomes a top fantasy producer toward the middle-to-end of the season.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore has been named by Cynthia Frelund of NFL.com as the most underrated player on the roster. Despite the season-ending injury of quarterback Cam Newton and the inconsistent play of Kyle Allen, the 23-year-old still managed to finish ninth overall in receiving yards (1,175) and 15th overall in receptions (87) in 2019. While he will need to rack up a few more touchdowns to become a more significant asset on the fantasy end, the sky is the limit with signal-caller Teddy Bridgewater now under center and new head coach Matt Rhule beginning his first year with the organization. Moore is projected to be selected somewhere in the fourth or fifth round in fantasy drafts but could finish higher than expected with the team adding some much-need stability at the quarterback position.