"If anybody should be a judge of quarterbacks, I've played with the most quarterbacks in NFL history throughout my first four years," DeAndre Hopkins said after practice Friday. "So I put the stamp on Savage, and I think that's all that needs to be said about that."
It's certainly not all that will be said about the topic before this camp ends. There remains a chance Watson wins the job by the end of camp or during the season, but at the Greenbrier, where the Texans practice, there's a clear depth chart delineation right now. Savage has taken all the first-team reps so far in camp, while Watson has worked exclusively with the second team.
Savage is the incumbent, having spent three years with the Texans and starting two games for them last season due to the struggles of Brock Osweiler. Watson, a national champion at Clemson for whom the Texans moved up in the first round this April to draft, may be the more exciting prospect, but Hopkins is a believer that the Texans can win with the guy who was already here.
"I've played with at least 10 quarterbacks," Hopkins said. "So because of what [Savage] does well and what he can do for this team, I know he can help us win what we want to win. He does everything well. He's a student of the game, from just being on the bench, watching and learning from other people's mistakes, seeing what they've done wrong. He can put the ball in any place. He has a strong arm. He has a knowledge of this offense. He's been in this offense his whole career."
The brief Osweiler era in Houston didn't go well, and Hopkins seemed to struggle to find a connection with 2016's big free-agent signing. After a 2015 season in which he became the first receiver in NFL history to record 100-yard games with four quarterbacks, Hopkins had only two such games last year with Osweiler. His reception total dropped from 111 in 2015 to 78 last year, his yardage total from 1,521 to 954 and his touchdown catches from 11 to four. Yet he declined to call it a frustrating year.
"No, I wouldn't say I was frustrated," Hopkins said. "We were winning. We didn't win the ultimate goal, but we gave the Patriots one of their closest games of the whole season and biggest challenges that they had. So I would be selfish on my part to say I was frustrated with my team going to the second round of the playoffs and almost beating the Patriots."
Hopkins seems to be in a pretty good place, which may explain why he's in camp at all. He held out one day of training camp last year in protest of a contract that still hasn't been extended and now has only one year left on it.
But this year, even as holdouts seem to be making a comeback league-wide, he has been in camp from the start in spite of the lack of a new deal.
"Because I know I have a great team," Hopkins said when asked why. "My teammates, those guys count on me to come out here and make this team better. Guys like Lamar Miller, like J.J. Watt that want to win a championship. And I know, for them to be able to do that, I have to be able to come out here and help those guys do it. So you know, the other 52 players on the team, they depend on me. That's why I'm here."
Hopkins could find himself in March at the top of a free-agent wide receiver class that includes himself, Buffalo's Sammy Watkins, Miami's Jarvis Landry, Jacksonville's Allen Robinson, Philadelphia's Alshon Jeffery and Washington's Terrelle Pryor. But Hopkins said he hasn't thought about his place in such a market.
"I'm sure those guys are going to get a chance to be able to make a living for themselves successfully when they do hit free agency," Hopkins said. "Those guys earned it. Some of those guys haven't been on a winning team, and they're competitors. I know those wide receivers; they just want to win."
Hopkins' point was that, unlike some of those other players, he has been on a winning team. And while he would love a new contract, he ultimately would like it to be with Houston.
"I've come this far," Hopkins said. "I've been a No. 1 receiver for only two years my whole football career. At Clemson, I was a No. 2 receiver. Just a couple of years ago, I was a No. 1 receiver. So you know, who I am and what people think of me? I'm not a selfish player, but I know what I'm worth, to put it in that aspect.
"I'm pretty sure there's a lot of teams in the NFL that would love to have me, but the Houston Texans is my home and the team that I want to play for forever."