A first-day NFL starting job appears to be Nuk Hopkins' to lose.
Houston Texans wide receiver coach Larry Kirksey makes no effort to hide his enthusiasm for Hopkins, who will line up opposite from veteran Andre Johnson as a starter when the team opens preseason camp later this month.
Rookies will report to Methodist Training Center on July 21, with veterans arriving four days later.
Hopkins, the Texans' first-round draft pick, has drawn rave reviews from coaches and teammates during rookie camp, mini-camp and Organized Team Activities leading up to full-scale training camp.
“I just think the kid (Hopkins) is a very talented young man," Kirksey told HoustonTexans.com. "He’s got good size, good range, and outstanding ball skills. He works. From day one, every pass he caught he sprinted not 10, not 20, 30 but 40, 50 yards down the field after the catch. That’s what we ask for in our receivers. I think he’s off to a great start from that standpoint."
Kirksey said Hopkins picked up quickly on his assignments, and the Texans' way of doing things.
"I was happy to see how he grasps the things we ask him to do," Kirksey said. "He studied what we gave him from the book, and then he went out and his athletic ability took over, and he was able to make plays. He’s just got to continue to do that.
He has an easy demeanor, so I don’t worry about him off the field. Being around Andre, he’s emulating those older guys and realizing that if he wants to stay in this business a long time he’s got to take care of his body and be the best pro he can be. I’m excited to see what he can do.”
CBSSports' Ryan Wilson offered a similar assessment of Hopkins during his preview of Houston's training camp. He said the Texans were looking for a player to complement Johnson, who accounted for 1,600 yards receiving last season.
"To that end, the Texans selected wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the first round," Wilson wrote. "Entering the draft, the knock against Hopkins was that he wasn't a burner. But he doesn't need to be in Houston's precision West Coast scheme. His size (6-1, 215) and his ability to catch anything thrown in his direction fits exactly with the Texans' need, which explains why he'll enter training camp as a starter."