"Nuke" could appeal to Patriots

"Nuke" could appeal to Patriots
February 23, 2013, 7:15 pm

INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- There's no doubt about it: The Patriots are meeting with top receiver prospects at the NFL combine.

Friday, Tennessee's Cordarelle Patterson (NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 WR) and USC's Robert Woods (No. 5) confirmed they planned to sit down with New England.

DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins told CSNNE.com he's also on the list.

Hopkins, ranked third by NDS, is a 5-11, 205-pound Clemson product. Last year, his 82 catches for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns in 13 games marked one of the best receiving seasons in ACC history.

He earned more attention after grabbing 13 passes for 191 yards and two TD's in his team's Chik-fil-A Bowl game win over LSU.

"My physicality at the wide receiver position… kind of separates me from other wide receivers," Hopkins said. "And being a student of the game, I feel like I'm very knowledgeable about my position. Being able to take coaching [is also an asset.] I try to get better every day and listen to the coaches."

His hands are an unquestionable positive. IMG Training Academy published a video February 14 that shows the receiver making one-handed grabs of footballs spit by a JUGS machine. He did it 33 times -- consecutively.  

As for his wheels, Hopkins is more sudden than fast. It's a quality that helps deceive defensive backs on game day but might not test well at the combine.

He's not worried.

"I'm looking to show them that I'm a football player, that I'm not going to go out there and drop any passes. I hope to run a good 40, but if I don't, that doesn't make the football player. I just want to impress them in everything I do. I did 15 reps on the bench today, so I feel like that was a good start."

Should the Patriots bite? The recent backlog shows a poor record of developing young receivers (e.g: Taylor Price, Brandon Tate). Deion Branch and David Givens are, arguably, the last who New England drafted and had success with.

But Hopkins has potential.

His catch radius, ability to win contested balls, and willingness to take hits should be attractive to Tom Brady. New England's offense is complex; the formations are intricate and Brady, in a blink, can significantly change the plays at the line.

The playbook could be dauntingly detailed for a rookie. The quarterback doesn't have the luxury (or perhaps the patience) to wait for understanding to set in.

Hopkins would have to catch on quickly. In college, at least, he never feared making adjustments after the play calls were put in.

"Like on high routes between me and my quarterback. We had great chemistry. Coming into the year we put a lot of work into the offseason, so it was stuff where me and my quarterback were on the same page, same level."