Typically when an otherwise highly ranked player falls in fantasy football drafts, it happens for one of two reasons – he’s coming back from injury or starting the year on a suspension. In the case of Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, it’s both.
In his first eight seasons, Hopkins only missed one game due to injury. Last season, he missed time with a hamstring strain and tore an MCL in Week 14 to end his season. Even so, in 10 games, he caught 42 passes for 572 yards and eight touchdowns. Those aren’t big numbers by Hopkins standards, but for just about anyone else, would be very good numbers despite injury.
Hopkins, it can be argued, has already punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame. In his last six full seasons, he has caught more than 95 passes five times and has 1,165 or more receiving yards in six of the last seven seasons. Consistently big production has been his career calling card, which makes the fantasy decision on him so painful.
In the offseason, Hopkins was suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the NFL’s PED policy. While it gives his surgically repaired MCL additional (and perhaps even unnecessary) time to heal, the bottom line is that he is guaranteed to miss nearly half of the fantasy football regular season – six games under the PED suspension and another when the Cardinals have a bye week in Week 13.
The Cardinals have one of the most potent offenses in the league and added Marquise Brown, who topped 1,000 receiving yards last year for the Baltimore Ravens, so the team should be able to hold up offensively until Hopkins returns. The Cardinals proved what they could do last season, starting 7-0 and building momentum before losing seven of their last 11 games, including four of the final five games without Hopkins. His importance to the success of the team is clear, and he will be coming in with fresh legs following his suspension to join a team two months into the grind of a 17-game season.
Fantasy football takeaway
There are two basic schools of thought when it comes to Hopkins. The first is to rank or value him so low that you will never get him. The second is considering him as a high WR3 and deal with his absence like fantasy owners have to do all the time when a player is injured – make do with what you have and ride out the storm early while your entire roster is healthy and bye’s largely aren’t a factor.
The final decision on where (or if) to invest in Hopkins is predicated in making an investment in the early middle rounds to add depth to your receiver corps. Hopkins has WR1 value when healthy and on the field, so when you get to the WR3 tier, the longer he remains, the bigger value he brings.
Don’t draft Hopkins to be a bookend wide receiver, but if you have two locked and loaded don’t be afraid to roll the dice on a redemption story that could stack your lineup in the second half of the season, especially in PPR formats.