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Spotlight: Hakeem Nicks

posted by Andrew Garda on Jul 19th

Andrew Garda's thoughts

It's frightening to imagine Hakeem Nicks healthy for a whole season. Seriously, in the last two years, Nicks has compiled 1800+ yards and 17 touchdowns without playing every game. If he could put a 16 game season together he would easily be among the elite at the position.

Of course, that's the rub. Nicks hasn't been able to stay healthy and so his owners have to wonder if they will have to find a replacement for him at some critical juncture in the season. However it's nigh impossible to predict injury and it'd be insane to pass on Nicks when he has shown himself to be a tremendous asset when healthy.

Let's look at what Nicks has going for him. Over the past two seasons, Nicks has caught 202 balls for 1,842 yards and 17 touchdowns. All while missing five games.

Those numbers come, in part, from what has become largely a passing offense. The Giants threw the ball 539 times and ran the ball just 443 times. That's pretty lopsided and it's the second consecutive year the offense has functioned that way. I don't expect this to change in 2011, especially with some questions at running back (Will Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw both remain?) and the shortened offseason.

The Giants will throw...a lot. Not surprisingly, quarterback Eli Manning has had consecutive career years; he threw for 4,021 yards in 2009 and threw 31 touchdowns in 2010, both career bests.

The trend definitely has become that the Giants throw more and Eli Manning looks for Hakeem Nicks a tremendous amount of the time. While there are other potential targets on the team, Nicks is his biggest weapon and he loves to use him.

The schedule is also favorable for Nicks. The Giants play the NFC West this season and face the Bills and Dolphins as well. None of those teams have a murderous secondary and will have trouble keeping Nicks and the Giants offense in check.

The one fly in the ointment (aside from injury) is Steve Smith. In 2009, Smith was definitely Manning's favorite target of opportunity, but he was injured for part of 2010 and of course his numbers suffered. However, while Smith is certainly a big part of the offense, he doesn't represent the same kind of vertical threat Nicks does. It is also possible Smith might not be back this season. While he is a very talented wide receiver, the Giants could opt to go with Mario Manningham, who took a step forward last season when so many receivers were injured.

Even if Smith comes back, Nicks' blend of size, speed and athleticism make him a top option in fantasy football anyway. The only thing in my mind which keeps him from going off the board as one of the top three options is injury. If Nicks can stay healthy, he should be mentioned in the same breath as Andre Johnson, Roddy White and Calvin Johnson.


  • Phenomenal Numbers
  • Prolific Offense
  • Favorable Schedule


  • Two seasons, two large injuries
  • Eli Manning can be really inconsistent
  • Will Steve Smith return and bite into Nicks' targets?

Final thoughts

I believe this is the year Nicks finally stays healthy. Despite being hurt, he's been a top ten player (yes, even in PPR leagues) so it's no great leap to believe that if he can play a whole season, he will vie for the top wide receiver spot. Facing some questionable secondaries in the NFC West (and let's face it, his own division) only makes it more possible.

Some owners will shy away from him because of the injuries and I can't argue with that. I would say he's worth the risk though, and as always if you draft for good depth, you can protect yourself to a great extent.

Nicks is far too talented to pass up in the second round of a redraft league and in my opinion, this is the year he puts it all together.

Quotations from the message board thread

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

Jason Wood, Senior Writer said:

I agree that Nicks has the complete package. It's nice when a breakout sleeper candidate actually works out, and last year it had to for Nicks' owners because by the time most drafts came around, he was going early enough that you needed him to be almost a WR1 to justify the draft selection. It will be interesting to see how the Giants approach this season offensively. Eli ended up having career highs in nearly every passing category, but also led the league in interceptions. The RB stable also put together a nice season, but ended up coughing up the ball at inordinate times.

I suspect, either way, Nicks will see plenty of targets -- consistently so.

As much as I like Steve Smith's game, we have to remember he had microfracture surgery and in March admitted that he is worried about whether it will rob him of his explosiveness. That's particularly troubling because Smith wasn't really an explosive athlete to begin with.

So long as Nicks stays healthy, I see no reason he couldn't vie for WR1 numbers this year. He's that talented.

rzrback77 said:

After Eli Manning had three straight seasons where he threw between 3200 and 3300 yards, he has now had two straight years with just over 4000. He also had an all time high 31 TDs in 2010, with Nicks getting 11 of the passing TDs in only 13 games.

Steve Smith seems to be getting dismissed, yet in 2010, he averaged 9 targets per game in the first eight games and Nicks targets actually decreased in the second half when Smith was out due to injury. Manningham who averaged only 4.5 targets per game in the first half went up to 7 per game with Smith out. I see a possibility for all three to be involved in 2011 so the projections for Nicks numbers to go up in year 3 may be more difficult than some of the flowery projections to this point.

I never project injuries, but it is prudent to mention that he has missed 2.5 games per year over his first two seasons.

Raiderfan32904 said:

Hakeem Nicks was the guy that made a lot of owners teams last year. His breakout season was correctly called by Dodd's/FBG staff. I was hesitant to believe, but reached for him at the top of the 4th round in both of last years redrafts, and he was responsible for 2 championships. Had he remained healthy, who knows what his numbers could have been. He was the most explosive receiver on the field during any Giant's game you watched last year, on either side. With his huge 4XL mitts and great route running and explosion after the catch, he is among the upper elite tier receivers. I'd put Nicks up in the top 4 WR's, with Andre Johnson, CJ, and Roddy White. He should be an early to mid 2nd round pick in redrafts this year, and I for one would gladly pay that price.

MrTwo94 said:

Eli had a career best 339 completions last year with 219 of them going to wide recievers. Namely, 79 to Nicks (13g), 60 to Manningham (16g), 48 to Smith (9g), and 24 to Hagan (7g). If everyone stays healthy, it might be reasonable to divy up 200 receptions to the top 3. Before injury, Smith was on pace to 94 receptions after 107 the year before. It is hard to imagine Smith getting less than 90 and Manningham getting less than 40, but Nicks is very talented... I'm on the fence here, but I think Nicks ends up between 80-90 receptions with 8-12 TD. I know people like to think 11 is his floor, but TDs are very hard to predict. Predictions of 13+ seem a bit ridiculous. Zero WR had 13 TD in 2008. One had exactly 13 in 2009. One had 13+ (15 - Bowe) in 2010. Settle down, folks.

Hakeem Nicks projections

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