The NFL is a copycat league. That’s one of those phrases that is so true it has become a cliche. Every team in the NFL is looking for any edge they can find in order to win games, and in many cases they will look to their competition for new concepts and ideas.
This year we saw two offenses which feature dangerous receiving tight ends competing to win the Super Bowl. The use of tight ends as weapons — as opposed to extra blockers — has been gaining popularity in the NFL over the last decade, and seeing two more playing in the biggest game of the year could add fuel to the fire.
The New York Giants already have prototypical “hybrid” tight end on their roster, but other teams in the division have new coaching staffs and openings on their roster. Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins receiving ability has many looking at him as the top tight end in the draft. Even if he isn’t a potential Giant, he’s a player with whom the Giants should make themselves familiar
Prospect: Brycen Hopkins (TE, Purdue)
Games Watched: vs. Nebraska (2018), vs. TCU (2019), vs. Maryland (2019), vs. Wisconsin (2019)
Red Flags: none
Height: 6036 (6-feet, 3 6/8 inches)
Weight: 241 pounds
Arm Length: 32 inches
Wingspan: 76 1⁄2 inches
Hand Size: 10 1/8 inches
Games Played: 40
Receptions (ypc): 130 (14.9 yards per catch)
Total Touchdowns (receiving): 16
Recpetions (YPC): 61 (13.6 yards per catch)
Best: Athleticism, route running, run after catch, blocking in space
Worst: Size, in-line blocking
Projection: A number two tight end in a system that uses 12-personnel and tight ends as receiving weapons.
Purdue’s Brycen Hopkins is an athletic and versatile hybrid tight end prospect. Hopkins has a versatile frame which allows him to line up as an in-line and detached tight end, as a fullback, slot receiver, and wide receiver. He has good athleticism for the position, with a good get-off, wasting little motion getting into his routes and the ability to stretch the field vertically. Hopkins is a very good route runner, running a full route tree and showing a good understanding of coverages. He is very good at selling blocks before releasing into routes, as well as finding voids in zone coverages. Hopkins shows the ability to extend and catch the ball away from his frame, adjusting well and showing good ability in contested catch situations. He is a capable runner after the catch, with enough speed, agility, and play strength to out-run defenders, shed tackles, and pick up chunk yardage.
Hopkins is a willing blocker and shows good competitive toughness in taking on larger defenders at the line of scrimmage. He is best blocking in space, taking on linebackers and defensive backs at the second level to extend runs or establish screen plays.
Hopkins lacks great size to be a traditional tight end. His blocking is more about positioning and toughness than strength, and he can struggle against defensive linemen. Hopkins will also need to improve his technique at the NFL level. He has a tendency to place his hands poorly, losing inside leverage and allowing defenders access to his chest plate.
Overall Grade: 6.2 - Has the traits to be a potential starter in the right system and a good backup for most teams. He has some limitations but also traits a team can win with. A good value later on the second day.
Brycen Hopkins projects as a versatile “hybrid” tight end at the NFL level. His athleticism and receiving ability will make him a weapon in the right offensive scheme - preferably one that uses two tight end packages and is willing to move him around the formation. He has a useful ability to attack the middle of the field, particularly the vulnerable areas in Cover 2 and Cover 3 defenses. Hopkins is capable of stretching the field vertically as well as picking up chunk yardage in run-after-catch situations. He has advanced and nuanced route running for a college prospect, and that should let him be a contributor right away in the NFL.
Teams who rely on 11-personnel and expect their tight ends to be blockers first will likely look elsewhere. Hopkins is a capable blocker in space and on the perimeter, but he should not be asked to stand up against NFL defensive linemen or EDGE players.