At first glance, it seems clear that Sports Hopper is intended as a replacement for Plascrete Carapace, once rotation arrives (in 2017?) and Plascrete is no longer usable in tournament decks. But how does it compare? Should you make the switch now?
The contrast between Plascrete and Hopper is significant, and shows a maturity of game design. While Plascrete is a silver bullet answer to Scorched Earth, Hopper is an elegant, multipurpose card.
Considering the case vs Scorched, Plascrete is better protection, no question. Firstly, you don't even lose cards for the meat damage, and secondly by protecting against 4 points of damage, you have the flexibility to safely end your turn on 4 cards. Hopper won't stop the damage taking cards out your grip, and you also must be sure to end turns on 5 cards in order for a single installed copy to protect you. However it will still prevent a double-scorched from ending you, so it can do the job.
But against other decks, it gets interesting. Plascrete is the deadest of draws - discard and move on.
Let's consider playing against a net damage deck, Hopper vs probably the best current blunt answer Deus X. The contrast is strikingly similar to vs Plascrete for meat damage. It's less good as you still lose cards, and it offsets only 3 points of damage while Deus X is all damage from one source. (And often 'all' net damage will be more than 3 damage - but occasionally offsetting 3 damage is actually better, eg vs 3 Shock!s in Archives). Hopper is good vs AP ice as you can use it after rez but before subroutines fire, so it'll help against potentially game-ending nasties like Merlin(s), Cortex Lock, or Shinobi. There is also a window to trigger it after a Ronin is rezzed before his ability is used. You can also rez it before committing to access an advanced card you suspect may be a Fetal AI or Project Junebug, but you will have to do it before seeing these cards.
Then, what about a Fast Advance or Glacier deck that you expect will not threaten any damage at all? Hopper still has some potential value - if you have credits to spare and want more draw (a fairly common scenario), you can spend a click and 3 credits to draw 3 cards. You won't be using it to replace Diesel, but it will sometimes be useful.
There are two aspects to this card that I think are brilliant design. Firstly, as a more general defensive option that can replace Plascrete and Deus X at once but in a weaker form, it is better for the game - it gives runners a realistic option to protect themselves from two Corp deck archetypes in a single card, but its inclusion in a runner's deck doesn't completely shut down those Corp deck archetypes, making for more interesting games.
Secondly, the inclusion of 1 link is a genius. By adding it to this card that will surely see widespread play for years to come, the link/trace aspect of the game has some added dynamism. No longer will runner's link equal their ID's base link in 95% of games, it will climb to 2 link on a regular basis.
Overall, a great card for the game, and a good multi-purpose card for your deck to defend against multiple threats.