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Spotlight - WR D.J. Hackett, Carolina Panthers

Posted on 7/1, exclusive to Footballguys.com

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Chris Smith's Thoughts

WR D.J. Hackett flashed his considerable upside last season when he caught 44 passes over the final twelve games of the season.

This year, Hackett has every opportunity to claim a starting position with the Seattle Seahawks.

Hackett is 25 years old and entering his fourth season in the NFL. He has good size at 6'2 and 199 pounds and is just now coming into his own. A former 5th round draft choice out of Colorado in 2004, Hackett finished with 1,013 receiving yards as a senior but slipped under the radar of most NFL teams due to his 40-time which was a pedestrian 4.53 during the NFL combine.

Why will Hackett start in 2007?

It appears very likely that Hackett will elevate to a starting position in 2007.  Why you ask? He'll start because offers more upside than veteran Bobby Engram who is better suited as a slot receiver in any case and is flat out better than Nate Burleson who likely will be relegated to kick return duty. He received plenty of playing time a year ago and performed quite well.

2006 Statistics

  • 45 receptions
  • 610 receiving yards
  • 4 touchdowns

Those numbers are more impressive when put into perspective. He had 44 of those receptions and 596 of his receiving yards over the final 12 games.  Factor those numbers in over a sixteen game stretch and he would have finished with 59 receptions for 795 yards.

OK... Maybe he'll start but why get excited about him?

  • New receiver hierarchy in Seattle: The Seahawks will be without Darrell Jackson and his 73.5 receiving yards per game this season (1,176 yards over an entire sixteen-game season). Bobby Engram will likely see an increase this season but the majority will likely be split between Hackett and Deion Branch.
  • Good physical tools: Hackett may be an unknown to much of the country but fans in Seattle are excited to see what he can do in 2007. Our very own David Shick had this to say about Hackett's prospects this year.

"I've watched every play of every game since the early 80s, and I've been leading the Hackett bandwagon for a long time now. I'm biased. I really want him to shine so I can feel justified in my consistent backing of the kid.     

What is it I like about him so much?  Hands. He catches the ball with his hands and has the ability to "snatch" the ball. The first thing I evaluate with any receiver is how often they catch the ball against their body instead of using their hands. See Koren Robinson if you want the definition of "body catcher."

Play Maker. Hackett has the ability to go up and grab the ball in traffic. He makes a play on the ball at its highest point. A guy like Jackson or Engram has to let the ball come down to them so they can hopefully catch it. Hackett will go get it, and he'll fight for it.

Can take a pop and hang on. Four times last year Seattle had to make fourth quarter drives allowing PK Josh Brown to make a game winning kick. On two of those drives Hackett made tough catches to keep drives alive. Both times he took big hits across the middle and held on." 

  • Good situation: Hackett is in a very good situation. With Shaun Alexander hopefully recovered and back to his old self, defenses will be forced to respect the running game opening up space down the field. Veteran Matt Hasselbeck has proved he can hit his receivers consistently and Hackett will reap the rewards.

 

Positives

  • Great size at 6'2" and 199 pounds
  • Great route-runner
  • Can make difficult catches look routine
  • Appears to have a clear path to a starting gig

Negatives

  • Unproven as a starting receiver
  • Fans are excited about his upside, not his past production
  • Has yet to prove he can handle the pressure of WR1 or WR2 consistently

Final Thoughts

Every year there are players that emerge as legitimate fantasy weapons for the first time. Last season wide receivers such as Marques Colston, Jerricho Cotchery and Bernard Berrian emerged from nowhere to put up decent fantasy numbers. This season there is a very real opportunity for Hackett to greatly exceed his current draft slot (113th as of June 16th). Don't pass on Hackett once you get into the ninth round or later. He'll emerge as a starting receiver and put up nice numbers.


Quotations from the Message Board Thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

mad sweeney:
Hackett has hands, heart and size. Hass locked onto him last season when it seemed like no other WR was trying. If he missed a big pass hass came right back to him. I think Branch is a better route runner and will get more receptions and yards but Hackett will get the big play TDs.

65-70 receptions 900 yds 11 TDs

The last 2 seasons Holmgren has venture tentatively into "trick" plays with Branch doing end arounds and Seneca Wallace playing a slash type role. Wallace and Hackett have a lot of chemistry from running 2nd team together for years. I would not be surprised to see them hook up on a few oddball plays so tack on another 50-100 yards (either rushing or receiveing) and another TD or 2 (maybe even passing?! to Wallace). Mike's adventures into trick play land are few and far between so it's hard to know what to expect but he's been getting creative and seems to want to use his weapons so look fo rit to open up a bit.

rzrback77:
Hackett did improve from his first year stats to year two, but it was a modest gain. I think that he improves again, but not what is expected on this message board. The incessant threads and the outlandish projections will keep Hackett on everybody's draft list and someone will reach too high for him. The other factor is that S Alexander's TDs went from 28 in 2005 to 7 in 2006. I see some bounce back for Alexander and a susequent decrease for the WRs. Additionally, the Seahawks have a somewhat more reliable TE that may take away some targets as well.

Sweet Love:
As I mentioned earlier, Seattle spreads the ball and he is slated to be a WR2. Even if you bump him to a WR 1A, how many WRs can you expect to get 1000 yards and 7-8 TDs?? Secondary WRs (on their own team), need to be in special situations to get 1000 yards. Part of that is based on great talent (Holt in the early years, Wayne at the present) and another part of that is based on opportunity. I do not think that Seattle has that type of pass mentality to yield such great stats for their WR2 with the competition that is lurking in the WR3 & 4 spots (lack of opportunity) and honestly, I do not think Hackett is that good.


D.J. Hackett Projections

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