Three names worthy of consideration when discussing the best wide receivers in football: Houston's Andre Johnson, Atlanta's Julio Jones and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald.
All physical monsters, all lethal in the air and after the catch. all top five draft picks.
None of them have the per-play production of Cincinnati's Andrew Hawkins, at least according to Pro Football Focus.
This isn't suggesting Hawkins is truly a better receiver than any of those three. I don't care about Fantasy Football, and I think size is given far too much credence in terms of likelihood of production on a football field. Looking at it purely in regards to what happens when this player is on the field, both with the ball in his hands and away from it, Hawkins is one of the better receivers in the game.
Never heard of him? Wouldn't surprise me. Undrafted out of the University of Toledo, the 5-foot-7, 175-pound lightning-in-a-bottle is a nightmare in coverage. He's the kind of player who's biggest detriment brings out his greatest strength. He's too small to play outside the numbers, so he's moved into the slot and given match-up advantages against nearly every defender he goes against. Way too quick for linebackers and safeties to handle one-on-one, even in the short field.
What's even scarier about him is he has deceptive speed, and an amazing instinct to find space.
Since no one watched Michael Irvin's festering turd of a reality show "4th and Long," barely anyone remembers the winner, Jesse Holley. If they do, it was because ESPN (the company now employing Irvin) didn't stop talking about him for a day after he hauled in a 77-yard reception in overtime against San Francisco in 2011.
It's highly likely no one will remember that Hawkins was a runner-up to Holley on that show.
Ironically, Hawkins was the one who pulled actual success out of the show. He already has 25 catches for 329 yards and two touchdowns (more catches than Steelers WR Mike Wallace, and a better yards per catch average and more touchdowns than Steelers WR Antonio Brown) .
Bengals WR A.J. Green is a handful, no doubt. But the back seven of the Steelers will have to worry about the cat-fast Hawkins in space.
He's also a big play waiting to happen.