by Ray Kuhn
Hakeem Nicks is a risky proposition for 2014. In fact, there will likely be a few owners in every league that ignore the big receiver this season, coming off his disastrous 2013 campaign. Is that the right strategy, however?
There are a few things we need to get out in the open about Nicks. The injury bug is something you have to be concerned about as he has yet to play in a full NFL season, though he did suit up 15 times last season while battling a myriad of injuries. He has two seasons of 13 games, one season of 14 and two of 15 in his career, so it’s not like he’s often limited to 8 or 9 games. I think this might be a case of a player’s reputation taking on a life of its own, so while I certainly reflect it in my projections and expectations, I am alright with it because he should take the field for the majority of the team’s games.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t call Nicks injury prone, because he is. Yes he generally plays on Sunday, but I’m sure the missed practice time does have impact on his performance. That is especially true when looking at his 2013 performance.
From the start of the off-season last year there were issues with Nicks and his impending free agency. It seemed everything he did was aimed at preventing injury. The Giants offense was a mess and maximum effort wasn’t always present. He did catch 56 balls for 896 yards in a less than ideal situation, a line we should feel comfortable with calling his floor.
That opens up two issues. The first is that once again Nicks is on a one year deal. That means popular opinion will dictate more of the same from him as he looks to stay healthy for next year’s free agency. I do think some concern is warranted, but this year Nicks will be going into the season both healthy and motivated. If he wants to cash in, he cannot have another dud like he did last year. Secondly, had he found the end zone even once his stat line would have looked a little better.
Now in 2014, Nicks is calling Indianapolis home and will be teaming up with young star Andrew Luck. Eli Manning was also battling injuries last season, so this move should stand to benefit Nicks. He gives the Colts a legitimate downfield threat and big target to pair with receivers Reggie Wayne & T.Y. Hilton, as well as big tight end Coby Fleener.
While it is certainly possible, I don’t feel entirely comfortable prediction a return to 2010 and 2011 production levels for Nicks. This stands at least until we can get a look at how Nicks is moving and the early chemistry he has with Luck. In those two seasons Nicks had 79 and 76 catches with 1,052 and 1,192 yards, respectively, scoring 18 touchdowns in the two years.
If you split the difference between those seasons and last year, you are looking at a 1,000 yard receiver with about 65 catches and five to seven touchdowns. Nicks could very easily provide WR2 production at a WR3 price, and that is obviously a pick worth making.