The Houston Texans, and especially offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, had a guy in mind going into Thursday’s NFL draft first round.
And former Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a feeling he was their man.
But one receiver, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, went early, as the St. Louis Rams traded up to the No. 8 spot, leaving the Texans with some anxious moments back at the 27th pick.
“I was just holding my breath because as we went through it,” Dennison said, “(Hopkins) was the guy I liked most of the wide receiver crew. It’s a good group, but he’s the one I preferred that we have.”
As lineman made up the majority of picks, Dennison got his wish.
“He is a very physical receiver,” he said, describing why they targeted the Daniel product. “Very strong, very good ball skills – catches the ball just naturally. Good run after that catch.
“He’s just a complete player for us.”
Hopkins was confident he would land in H-Town, as the Texans’ first receiver selection in the first round since 2003, Andre Johnson.
Johnson, a former Miami Hurricane, has been a Houston stalwart, averaging 74 catches and over 1,000 yards a year in 11 seasons, but he openly expressed a need for some help come 2013.
“I’ve been hearing the buzz that Andre Johnson needed another receiver on the other side of him,” said Hopkins, “so when I heard him say that – I said, ‘Man, I’m that guy.’ I can help this team win championships.”
Dennison says one of the bigger assets Hopkins brings is competitiveness with the ball in the air.
“The thing that stuck out to us watching him, he’s very competitive,” said Dennison. “He can catch the ball in a crowd. It doesn’t matter to him. He can go up and get the ball. And he competes and wears the DBs out.”
Hopkins credits time as a defensive back as a Daniel Lion, and a little bit to his basketball playing days that continued for a season at Clemson.
“When the ball is in the air, I feel like it’s mine,” he said. “No matter who it is or no matter the situation, I feel like I have to come down with the ball.”
His new offensive coordinator was not only impressed his skills, but also how he developed in three record-breaking seasons in TigerTown.
“Every year, he got more and more production (at Clemson),” Dennison said. “It didn’t look like anything was too big for him.
“When you look at his (Chick-fil-A Bowl) performance, when the stakes got bigger – he just kept playing bigger and bigger.”