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Culture / Sporting Life

Aaron Rodgers Believes DeAndre Hopkins Is the NFL’s Best Receiver

Packers QB Yearns to Throw Passes to Texans Star

BY // 07.16.16

Aaron Rodgers is known for making mediocre receivers look good. See James Jones. Or Randall Cobb. Or Richard Rodgers. A lot of average wideouts have made a ton of money thanks to the Green Bay Packers quarterback’s already legendary arm.

So perhaps it should be no surprise that Rodgers does not hesitate in picking the receiver who makes bad quarterbacks look good as the NFL’s No. 1 wideout. But it is a shocker. Because Rodgers’ pick for the NFL’s best receiver does not follow convention. Or the fantasy football crowd. He shuns Antonio Brown. He looks past Julio Jones. He shrugs off Odell Beckham’s spotlight-hogging ways.

Rodgers — the NFL’s preeminent quarterback (sorry, Tom Brady) — looks to Houston instead. It turns out that No. 12 has his eyes on DeAndre Hopkins.

The 24-year-old Hopkins is clearly already an NFL star, three seasons and no decent NFL quarterbacks into his pro football career. But you won’t find him No. 1 in any receiver rankings. Except his own. And those of the NFL’s best quarterback. What does Rodgers see in Hopkins? The better question would be what doesn’t he see. The superhuman catch radius (only Hopkins could make a twisting one-handed reception that didn’t even end up counting stand-up as the catch of the year), the 3XL-sized Spiderman hands, and the ability to thrive no matter who is fluttering ducks his way from the quarterback position all jump out.

“The season that DeAndre Hopkins had with four different quarterbacks … ” Rodgers says. “That was incredible.”

Rodgers professed his love for Houston’s other superstar (for once, J.J. Watt wasn’t receiving all the attention) on Bill Simmons’ new HBO show, Any Given Wednesday, this week. The idea of who the NFL’s best receiver is came across as something Rodgers has spent time thinking about. He didn’t hesitate or even bother to name other receivers before going right to Hopkins.

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It turns out the Texans’ still-somewhat-underrated star is the receiver that Rodgers would most like to play with. As signs of respect go, this is pro football’s equivalent of a mafia godfather’s blessing. Who cares that four receivers got ranked ahead of Hopkins (Brown, Jones, Beckham and even A.J. Green) in the NFL’s annual Top 100 ratings now? Hopkins has a better endorsement, the ultimate quarterback endorsement.

Hopkins is signed through the 2017 season (thanks to a fifth-year option the Texans picked up), but you have to expect Houston to try to lock him into a new long-term deal before he ever gets to free agency. Hands off, Rodgers? Time will tell. If the NFL’s marquee QB is wondering what it would be like to throw to Hopkins, the man himself must be imaging what it’d be like to play with an elite passer.

After all, Hopkins racked up 1,521 yards playing with four different below-average quarterbacks last season. That’s the remarkable feat that drew Rodgers’ mad respect. Now, Hopkins gets free-agent prize (and the unproven) Brock Osweiler — and presumably more consistency.

But he doesn’t have a Rodgers. And Rodgers knows better than anyone that he doesn’t have the NFL’s No. 1 catching threat.

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