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DeAndre Hopkins among NFL's best, Bill O'Brien says

Owner Bob McNair hinted in late March that the Texans released Andre Johnson because the veteran receiver had lost a step.

That wasn't the sole reason Houston was willing to part with a franchise icon.

The coaching staff believes DeAndre Hopkins is up to the task of handling No. 1 receiver duties on the heels of a breakout 2014 season.

"Obviously, DeAndre Hopkins we think is one of the best in the league," coach Bill O'Brien said this week, via Tania Ganguli of "I've said that time and time again."

Hopkins' 76 catches for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns are even more impressive considering he was hauling in passes from the underwhelming quarterback quartet of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Tom Savage and Case Keenum.

A complete wideout with size, run-after-catch ability, strong hands and a big catch radius, Hopkins authored the most dominant performance we witnessed by a receiver all season, slicing and dicing the Titans' secondary for 238 yards in Week 13.

His spectacular one-handed catch against the Giants in Week 3 would have rivaled Odell Beckham's for catch of the year had it been nationally televised (and not nullified by penalty).

Still just 22 years old, Hopkins is the same age as Bears' first-round pick Kevin White. With better quarterback play, there are Pro Bowls in his future.

As to O'Brien's bold statement, we would rank Hopkins in the same tier as Alshon Jeffery, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans behind the top eight of Calvin Johnson, Odell Beckham, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and Jordy Nelson.

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