As his nickname, might suggest, “Nuke” Hopkins didn’t spend any of his collegiate career pussyfooting around. In 2010, his first year in Tiger stripes, he played in twelve games (starting eight), leading the team with 52 catches (covering 637 yards and four TDs) and earning the team’s Rookie of the Year award. In 2011, he played in every game, piling up 978 yards on 72 catches, with five scores, adding a school bowl-record 10 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown in Clemson’s post-season bowl game against West Virginia. In 2012, he burst out, finishing with a single-season school record 1,405 receiving yards on 82 catches, and setting a new ACC-mark with 18 receiving scores (the second place finisher had ten).
Hopkins is not just an athlete playing outside the numbers; he is a receiver who runs polished routes, runs the entire route tree, and sets up different routes skillfully and sneakily, keeping defenders off balance. He has excellent body control, which he uses to make quick, sharp cuts. Hopkins is very good at creating separation from the defender, at locating and tracking the ball, and in attacking it at its highest point. He has excellent focus and is a fluid mover at 6’1″ and 214 pounds (after his freshman season, he joined the Clemson basketball team in a reserve role; one year earlier, he led his high school hoops team to a state title). In addition, Hopkins has shown himself to be a good run blocker, locating, latching onto and driving back defensive backs infield.
Many of you probably haven’t spent as much time researching wide receivers as you have other positions of greater perceived need for the Cowboys. If this is indeed the case, I encourage you to watch Hopkins in action; here he is, in a 2012 highlight reel, against SEC powerhouse LSU and in an ACC rivals two-fer: North Carolina State and Florida State. As the tape suggests, Hopkins’s game has much to recommend it; he’s a crafty, polished receiver who has a wicked double-move and uses his body to create space for the catch.
Do our esteemed scouts agree? Lets read what they have to say and meet back at the bivouac, located at the bottom of the page.
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton): 6th-rated WR; 43rd overall
Separation Skills: Very quick feet. At times does a nice job at the line of scrimmage with stem-and-stick, but needs to be more consistent in that area. Needs to cut down on the wasted steps when releasing and needs to do a better job with his hands. Displays a good natural feel for reading coverages. Takes solid angles, locates soft spots and knows how to settle in. However, he’s a choppy route runner that lacks acceleration out of his cuts.