This draft is loaded with wide receivers of every type. There are big targets like Kenny Britt, fast players like Darrius Heyward-Bey or Jeremy Maclin, five tool players like Percy Harvin, but rarely do drafts have great all-around players like this one. I am a fan of a lot of wide receivers in this draft, but none more than North Carolina wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.
I think it has been established that I want Hakeem Nicks more than any other player that could be left around the Colts' first round. I remember his amazing route running against Notre Dame in the Irish's crushing defeat at Chapel Hill. He was always open, and Notre Dame does not have bad cornerbacks. He's just a genius when it comes to routes. Don't even bring up the Wonderlic. I don't care if he doesn't know the ninth month of the year. As long as he can catch the football it's fine. Here's his positives.
Arguably the top route runner in this year's class, Nicks is a reliable target with very good hands. Runs crisp routes and has good quickness out of his breaks. For a receiver, Nicks has good strength. Cornerbacks have to be sound tacklers to take him down in the open field. Gives some safeties trouble when he gets a head of steam. Has good awareness of the sideline when he's up in the air. Knows how to really attack a zone. Easily locates the hole and is patient enough to sit in them until the pass arrives.
This is why I want him. Route running is so important. This could be huge if he reaches his potential. Nicks is so much further along than any other prospect in this draft. Speed takes a backseat to route running and hands.
Nicks is a tough competitor that shines his brightest when the stakes are raised. Known as a gamer within the Tar Heels’ program and put forth a gutsy three year career in which he vastly improved each season. Has a natural feel for the game and seems to be mentally ahead of his opposition at all times. Possesses a strong pair of hands that pluck the ball out of the air and secure it right away. There is no wiggle to it once he has it in his hands. Makes the tough catch in traffic on all three levels of the pass defense. Does not pay too much attention to oncoming defenders from the blind side, great concentration. Runs exceptional routes, loses minimal momentum on sharp cuts, especially 180 degree comeback routes. Reads the defense with ease and finds the vacant lanes against zone. A very quarterback-friendly receiver. A threat after the catch and makes defenders miss with a combination of strength and wiggle.
New Era Scouting says the best case scenario for Nicks is TJ Houshmandzadeh. If he could reach that in to or three years, Peyton Manning will have a John Elway-like finish to his career.
Nice size and strength to beat press man coverage ... Refined route runner exploding out of his cuts ... Outstanding, soft hands ... High ability to focus when ball is in the air ... Knows how to shield corners ... Catches the ball away from his body ... Competitor and is clutch ... Solid downfield blocker ... Red zone threat ... Shows athleticism on jump balls ... Will go over the middle ... Nice instincts; shows intelligence to come back to the quarterback.
So, what doesn't he have? That is the question. Somehow, these three respected websites were able to find some negatives. Of course, they are much smaller than all of the positives.
Mocking the Draft:
Really lacking good speed. May test well due to offseason workouts, but Nicks doesn't play especially fast. A little slow off the blocks. Played in an offese that has several quality targets, which often gave Nicks one-on-one coverage. Has serious ball-control issues after the catch. Nicks need to learn how to tuck the ball high and tight as he'll occasionally get the ball knocked out of his hand.
New Era Scouting:
Can make plays down-field and create with the ball in his hands, but is not a burner and struggles to gain separation deep. Effort as a run blocker does not mirror his effort as a route runner and receiver. Does not tuck the ball close to his body when running in space as he avoids tacklers. His lack of top tier athleticism will be a much bigger issue in the NFL than it was in college. Will not come down with a lot of jump balls in the end zone. Pass catching technique is inconsistent as he will sometimes wait for the ball to come to him rather than go get it. Timing is off as he attacks the ball.
Not elusive in the open field and does not maximize YAC ... Does not generate separation with speed ... Not a deep threat ... Not much upside.
Overall, Nicks is better than any wide receiver to come out in 2008 or 2007. If he is still available when the Colts pick, my guess is Polian snatches him up without blinking, Nicks is a rare prospect with his amazing combination of route running, size, speed and hands. I would be thrilled to see these at the Colts pro shop.
And as an added bonus, here is a Youtube video of Nicks' greatness.