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Not For A Second Does DeAndre Hopkins Seem Anything But A Star

After franchise-record 115 receptions, wide receiver preps for Year 2 in Arizona

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins makes a catch during a minicamp practice this week.
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins makes a catch during a minicamp practice this week.

The smile creeped across DeAndre Hopkins' face, and it was clear he was very much going to enjoy answering the question just asked.

Wide receiver Julio Jones, potential Hall of Fame candidate, was just traded for essentially a second-round pick, just as Hopkins, potential Hall of Fame candidate, was dealt for essentially a second-round pick the year before. So what did the Cardinals' Pro Bowl pass catcher think of that development?

"That we're not worth first-round picks, that the first-round picks are better than us," Hopkins said, letting out a chuckle.

"I would like to see a first-round pick be able to do what Julio and myself do. But guys are pretty good, the receiver groups coming out of college are a little more advanced than I was back in my days – even though I had like, however many touchdowns, (18) touchdowns – but you got guys like (Vikings first-round pick) Justin Jefferson who came in balling as a rookie. There are definitely some guys that can do what Julio and myself do, but I'm surprised, shoot.

"I was only coming off a first-team All-Pro, so I kind of figured I might only go for a second-rounder, but I'm surprised Julio would only go for a second-round pick."

Hopkins' use of sarcasm was in midseason form, but as the veteran readies himself during this week's mandatory minicamp, it's a more subdued D-Hop analyzing the landscape.

His first season with the Cardinals was as good as anyone could've hoped, highlighted by the Hail Murray touchdown grab to beat the Bills and a franchise-record 115 catches, which produced 1,407 yards and six touchdowns.

But as he did a year ago, Hopkins downplays any specific statistics he might seek, looking instead for that playoff berth that was at hand before the Cards struggled down the stretch.

"I want to win a championship," Hopkins said. "I feel like a guy like me, who sees a lot of attention from a safety and a cornerback, I never compare numbers to how effective I am on the football field. If you know football, you know numbers really don't affect the game. It's the kind of player you are, taking the double-team and allowing someone else to be open."

Such talk echoes what was heard from Hopkins' (former?) teammate Larry Fitzgerald the last several years. Hopkins' first Cardinals minicamp is the first Fitzgerald – who remains unsigned and potentially will be retiring – has not been a part of since 2004.

The revamped receiving corps might be missing Fitz, but it now has former All-Pro A.J. Green and second-round pick Rondale Moore. Fitzgerald's impact was real – "I think Fitz made his mark on us last year, in the things that he taught us," Hopkins said – but Hopkins also believes the receiving room is "definitely" improved over 2020.

Instead of Fitzgerald, Hopkins' 2021 wingman is now Green, whose career derailed in the last couple of years in Cincinnati with injuries and who sought a fresh start. Hopkins had a previous relationship with Fitzgerald before coming to Arizona but not with Green – at least not directly.

But Green, four years Hopkins senior, is from South Carolina like Hop, and Hopkins grew up watching Green thrive in both football and basketball – both sports Hopkins played and starred in as well.

"I followed his career everywhere he went," Hopkins said. "It's an honor to be able to play with him."

Hopkins has a similar vibe when talking about quarterback Kyler Murray, with whom Hopkins says chemistry improves all the time.

"For me to be able to play with someone like that in the prime of his career, I'm just hoping I can come in and make him better too," Hopkins said.

It's probably safe to say Hopkins will be able to do that – at least at the level worthy a second-round pick.

Images from Tuesday's minicamp practice at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center.