This week the AFC South wing of ESPN's NFL Nation is doling out divisional awards. Houston Texans reporter Tania Ganguli, Jacksonville Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco, Tennessee Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky and Indianapolis Colts reporter Mike Wells start today with offensive player of the year.
HOUSTON -- He was the best receiver Brian Hoyer ever had. Ryan Mallett called him "Spiderman" because he seemed to catch everything. On the field he reminded Brandon Weeden of throwing to his dynamic college teammate at Oklahoma State, Justin Blackmon. He gave T.J. Yates someone comfortable to trust and turn to when the team needed a play.
Every quarterback who started a game for the Houston Texans this season loved throwing the ball to DeAndre Hopkins. His steadiness was one of the few constants on a team filled with turmoil.
For his thrilling catches and his dependability in the face of a wacky 2015 season, NFL Nation's AFC South reporters selected Hopkins as our offensive player of the year.
Hopkins finished the season ranking third in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,521, behind Julio Jones (1,871) and Antonio Brown (1,834). He set a franchise record with 11 touchdown catches in a season. He became the first player in NFL history to have 100-yard receiving games from four different quarterbacks in the same season.
His frustrations sometimes showed on the field when he'd be open and a ball would sail far over his head, but when asked about playing through such change at quarterback, Hopkins always took a diplomatic tone. These quarterbacks, he noted, got him into the Pro Bowl -- likely his first of many.
Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco: I argued for Blake Bortles, but that doesn’t mean I think Hopkins isn't deserving of the award. What he accomplished with a revolving door of below-average quarterbacks is pretty amazing. What sticks out to me was how clutch he was. Take the Texans’ game in Jacksonville in October as an example. Cornerback Davon House held Hopkins to five catches for 57 yards through the first three quarters, but Hopkins came through when his team needed him the most. Hopkins caught five passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lead the Texans to a 31-20 victory. Hopkins played at a high level every week and carried the Texans’ offense.
Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky: He’s a wonderful receiver who has shown he can be a weapon under any circumstances and is not a product of a top quarterback. The Titans are in need of a consistent play-making receiver for Marcus Mariota. They’d be very fortunate to find someone close to the caliber of Hopkins.
Colts reporter Mike Wells: Hopkins took advantage of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck missing nine games this season to become the division’s best playmaker. What made Hopkins’ play even more impressive was that he put up those numbers while catching passes from four different Houston quarterbacks, much like former Texans receiver Andre Johnson did during his career with the franchise.