Deshaun Watson. DeAndre Hopkins. J.J. Watt. These three names are elite talents and regularly featured on Pro Football Focus’ “Top 101 NFL Players.” PFF has released their annual rankings once again, and as expected, Watson and Hopkins are on the list. The difference is that injuries have zapped Watt from his usual spot on the list. That, and a newcomer to the Top 100 is perhaps the Texans’ largest free agency conundrum, top run defender D.J. Reader.
This is what PFF had to say about Hopkins, Watson, and Reader:
39. WR DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
The best players in the NFL show up for the biggest occasions, and that typifies what DeAndre Hopkins did this season. In the first half of their playoff game against the Buffalo Bills, the team was moving him around to avoid the attention of Bills corner Tre’ Davious White, but in the second half they just decided to take him on, and Hopkins got the better of the battle for more than just one key play. In their second playoff game, Hopkins caught nine passes for 118 yards in a losing effort against the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs. Hopkins is one of the best in the game, and he’s at his best in the biggest moments.
52. DI D.J. Reader, Houston Texans
At 347 pounds, you would be forgiven for thinking that D.J. Reader was little more than a run-stuffing anachronism to the modern NFL, but he has shown the ability to affect the passing game, as well. This season, in particular, saw his playing time on passing downs scaled up with injuries to the Texans defensive front. Reader rushed the passer 409 times, 51 more than his previous career-high figure, and he responded by posting career-high marks in total pressures (36) and pass-rushing grade (72.5). Reader ended the season with the fifth-best overall PFF grade and fifth-best run-defense grade among all interior defenders.
87. QB Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
At his best, Deshaun Watson belongs maybe 50 places or so higher on this list, but he still remains prone to occasional disastrous games. His three worst games all featured PFF grades in the 40.0s, but no other game was worse than 60.0, and he had six games of 80.0 or more. Watson also has more on his shoulders than almost any other quarterback, so a degree of inconsistency is to be expected. When kept clean, Watson had an adjusted completion percentage of 81.2% and is one of the most exciting players in the league to watch.