The NFL offseason has officially picked up in a significant way with the tampering period before the start of free agency on Thursday is underway. The Arizona Cardinals have headlined that pulled off a blockbuster trade by moving former Pro Bowl running back David Johnson along with draft picks to the Houston Texans in exchange for All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Beyond it raising puzzling questions about Bill O’Brien’s ability as pseudo general manager, it now gives the Cardinals one of the best offensive talents in the league. With that in mind, could Hopkins firmly step into the fold as the best wideout counterpart that future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald has played alongside in Arizona?
Larry Fitzgerald’s career
Through his first 16 years in the league, Fitzgerald has put forth an illustrious career that has seen him establish himself as an all-time great in the game.
He has strung together a first-ballot Hall of Fame career, which he’s currently second all-time with 1,378 receptions and 17,083 receiving yards 17,083 along with being 11th with 120 total touchdowns. Fitzgerald has tallied nine 1,000 receiving yard campaigns, 100 or more receptions five times, 60-plus receptions all but once, and double-digit touchdown receptions on five occasions.
Fitzgerald also holds several NFL and Cardinals all-time marks such as eight 90-reception seasons along with the most receptions (30), receiving yards (546), and touchdowns (seven) in a single postseason. All of that has helped him earn 11 Pro Bowl selections, a First-Team All-Pro nod, two Second-Team All-Pro Selections while leading the league in catches and receiving yards twice each.
The 36-year-old has shown that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank as he’s coming off posting 75 catches for 804 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Fitzgerald has established himself as one of the greatest players to play the game, but could he finally be partnering up with the best wide receiver in his career.
DeAndre Hopkins’ impressive career
Since entering the league, Hopkins quickly established himself as one of the top talents at his position.
In his first seven years all spent with the Texans, the Clemson product has put forth five seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards and three with more than 100 receptions, and three with double-digit touchdown totals. Hopkins has taken that to the next level over the last three years as he has earned a Pro Bowl selection and a First-Team All-Pro nod in each campaign. That includes setting career highs with 115 catches and 1,572 receiving yards in the 2018 campaign that included zero dropped passes.
That saw him become the second-youngest player to notch 600 receptions behind only Fitzgerald while he also has the most catches through the first six seasons. He’s also the third-youngest player to reach 8,000 receiving yards and is the first player to have at least nine catches and 145 receiving yards in three straight games.
With all that in mind, Hopkins has certainly pegged himself as one of the game’s best talents regardless of position.
Does DeAndre Hopkins top the list for Larry Fitzgerald?
Throughout his 16 years in the league, Fitzgerald has had the opportunity to play for any different wide receivers varying in talent level.
Among those that have stepped through Arizona, the most obvious choice for the best counterpart to the future Hall of Famer is Anquan Boldin. He spent the first seven years of his career with the Cardinals where he earned all three of his Pro Bowl nods. That saw him top more than 70 receptions all but once over that span along with five 1,000 receiving campaigns.
Boldin held up his own end of the bargain as a highly productive talent, but Hopkins is at a different level. As great of a player that Boldin was during his time, he was never in the conversation as being the game’s best wide receiver like Hopkins has been for the last few years.
Hopkins is also in the prime of his career and still has many more highly productive seasons ahead of him. There is no clarity in terms of how much longer Fitzgerald will play, but he will have the opportunity to play alongside the best offensive talent in his impressive career.