Show of hands. Who’s going to make Deshaun Watson one of the first five quarterbacks selected? He’s been great, but he’ll be going without DeAndre Hopkins this year.

They do have some other guys. Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks are both huge injury risks, but they’ll have some big games when they’re healthy. They’re bringing in Randall Cobb. I’m not a big Cobb fan myself, but some people think he’s an above-average slot receiver.

They’ve got David Johnson now, so they’ve got more pass-catching pop out of the backfield now. In the two D.Johnsons – Duke and David – they’ve got one of the best one-two punches of pass-catching running backs in the league.

They have a host of tight ends they can mix and match.

There are some decent reserve receivers (Keke Coutee, Kenny Stills) if they’re still on the roster in September.

But Hopkins is really good, and they don’t have anyone like that. About 28 NFL teams don’t have a wide receiver like Hopkins.

How much of a decline, therefore, should be expected from Watson. Certainly, it would seem, there will be a few throws that will fall incomplete in the red zone, where if Hopkins had been there, he would have made a jaw-dropping catch. And a guy like Hopkins makes it easier by downfield threats like Fuller and Cooks to get open for long touchdowns.

On this front, see the list of the other 15 wide receivers in the last 40 years who’s put up top-10 numbers (PPR scoring) then switched team via trade or free agency. The stats don’t show the players’ numbers. They show the team totals for the franchise left behind.

Nine of the 15 teams the following year finished with fewer passing yards and fewer touchdown passes. Two teams finished with fewer yards but more TD passes. And four teams, after losing their big receiver, came back the next year and put up better stats (both yards and touchdowns).

I’m of the school of thought that Watson will decline. He is not one of my top-5 quarterbacks.

YearPlayerTeamYds-TDNext Yr
1980John JeffersonSan Diego4741-304873-34
1991Drew Hill• Houston4804-244231-27
1993Anthony MillerSan Diego3383-183619-20
1997Yancey Thigpen••Pittsburgh3215-222781-13
1999Keyshawn JohnsonNY Jets3001-224023-23
2002Peerless Price••Buffalo4364-243069-11
2003Keenan McCardell••Tampa Bay3941-273773-24
2004Muhsin Muhammad••Carolina3889-293485-25
2009Brandon MarshallDenver3825-214307-25
2012Wes Welker••New England4844-344343-25
2013Eric Decker••Denver5572-554661-40
2014Jeremy Maclin••Philadelphia4356-274341-23
2016Brandin Cooks••New Orleans5258-384334-23
2017Jarvis Landry• Miami3792-243309-26
2018Antonio Brown••Pittsburgh5174-353214-18
2019DeAndre HopkinsHouston4083-27?

—Ian Allan