DeAndre Hopkins on Deshaun Watson connection: 'I think we can be the best in the league.'

Months after setting the NFL ablaze, Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins thinks he and quarterback Deshaun Watson can be even better in 2018.

“Honestly, I feel like I set the standard high for myself and him, so I think we can be the best in this league,” Hopkins told the Houston Chronicle. “I think he can be the best quarterback. I know I can be the best wide receiver. That’s our mindset coming into the season.”

The Texans led the league in scoring when Watson started.

In Watson’s six starts, Houston averaged a league-best 34.7 points per game.

The outstanding rookie didn’t start the first game, sitting behind Tom Savage, but after Savage struggled, Watson saw the field, throwing a touchdown in the third quarter. From there it was his job, and he ran with it. After scoring the only touchdown in the Texans’ 13-9 win over the Bengals in Week 2, Watson put up two scores and 342 total yards in a narrow loss to the then-defending-champion New England Patriots. He accounted for five total touchdowns in each of the next two weeks — a blowout win over Tennessee and a close loss to Kansas City — and then threw for three more touchdowns in a straightforward win over Cleveland. In his final start, at Seattle, Watson lit it up for 402 yards and four touchdowns through the air and 67 yards on the ground. But he also threw three interceptions, and the Seahawks prevailed, 41-38.

Watson, 22, finished his rookie year with 19 passing touchdowns, most ever for a player in his first seven games. Hopkins was on the receiving end of seven of those scores.

Watson is coming off a torn ACL.

Just when it seemed that everything was coming together for the Houston offense, Watson tore his ACL in practice ahead of Week 8. The team turned back to Savage and lost five of its next six, ultimately finishing the campaign 4-12.

Watson still isn’t taking part in 11-on-11 drills in practice, per the Chronicle. But he’s been active for every other part of the team’s organized team activities, and that has Hopkins excited. “It gives me chills sometimes to think what we did in the little time we had together, but seeing him mature, not just on the field but off the field, I can’t wait,” he said.

Heading into year two, Watson should have an even better grasp of Bill O’Brien’s nuanced offense, something many pundits believed would be his biggest transition last offseason. That, combined with the experience he gained, should make him even better this upcoming year as long as he stays healthy. Hopes are high in Houston with Watson, superstar defensive lineman J.J. Watt, linebacker Whitney Mercilus and a bevy of other names returning healthy.

Can DeAndre Hopkins be the best receiver in the league?

Hopkins has never been one to lack confidence, and the 25-year-old led the league with 13 touchdowns last season despite having subpar quarterback play for about half of it.

It’s tough to really separate the names at the top. Antonio Brown has led the league in yards and catches twice in the past four years and is considered to be the top player at his position. Odell Beckham Jr. has turned in spectacular performances when healthy, but he played in just four games last season. Julio Jones is an otherworldly athlete who led the league in yards per game in 2015 and 2016.

Hopkins, who has never gotten consistent quarterback play, has an enormous catch radius and is one of the strongest wideouts in the league. And when he was paired with Watson, Hopkins put up some huge numbers: three touchdowns against the Chiefs and 224 yards against the Seahawks. Perhaps with a full year of Watson behind center, Watkins’ claim will be validated.

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