Impact Players 2014: Hakeem Nicks

HNicks-Brian-Spurlock-USAT

The Colts will have a plethora of options in the receiving corps this year, after rolling the dice unsuccessfully on Darrius Heyward-Bey last year.  It seems Grigson did not want the same results to hinder the team or Luck’s progression.  The focus was illuminated with the losses last season of Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen, so the front office this year brought in Hakeem Nicks into the fold to prevent the problems the team had at wide receiver last season.  Now the receiver corps looks to be much more solid with the return of the injured players and the group of young receivers that had to acclimate quickly last season. So, even if Nicks doesn’t produce as expected, the team would most likely be okay.  Now you’re probably asking yourself, why is he an impact player then?  The simple answer is because it is in Nicks best intrest, he needs to play and contribute due to the structure of his contract.

The Colts front office constructed the contract so that the one year $3.95 million dollar contract is really based upon Nicks having to perform various incentives. The contract included a $2 million dollar signing bonus and almost another $2 million in obtainable bonuses. For Nicks to receive the full benefits of his contract, he must perform. That’s why so many who saw the contract were happy with the structure.  It’s good for both the team and Nicks if it turns out the way both sides expect.

Looking back at when Nicks came into the league in 2009, here is the scouting report produced by Walterfootball.com:

Hakeem Nicks’ Scouting Report By Matt McGuire

Strengths: 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.

Weaknesses: Not elusive in the open field and does not maximize YAC … Does not generate separation with speed … Not a deep threat … Not much upside.”

Last year with the NY Giants, Nicks posted 56 receptions for 896 yards and 0 touchdowns. There were concerns that Nicks was preserving himself for his free agency by some connected to the Giants.   Keep in mind he also was having to overcome an injury that seemed to bother him throughout the season. The other problem with looking at last year’s number is the Giants offensive line was a complete mess hampered by injuries, which effected the timing of the offense.  Eli had a ridiculous amount of interceptions (27) and sacks (39).  With the instability on the offense, Nicks’ poor numbers could be part of the offensive woes the team experienced last year.  Since 2009 with the Giants, Nicks produced the following numbers:

(Year/Games/Receptions/Yards/TD’s)

2009: 14/47/790/6

2010: 13/79/1052/11

2011: 15/76/1192/7

2012: 13/53/692/3

2013: 15/56/896/0

So for 2014 to be successful lets look at his season averages to use as a baseline. (Games/Receptions/Yards/TD’s)

14/62.2./932/5.4

So using these averages we could assume that Nicks should play most of the games (14) and should have nearly 62 receptions for around 1,000 yards and 5 touchdowns.

2013 Colts Receivers

(Games/Receptions/Yards/TD’s)

Darius Heyward-Bey: 16/29/309/1

T.Y. Hilton: 16/82/1083/5

Reggie Wayne: 7/38/503/2

Da’Rick Rogers: 5/14/192/2

Griff Whalen: 9/24/259/2

LaVon Brazill 10/12/161/2

David Reed. 7/1/2/0

Team AVG. 10/29/358/2

Nicks’ AVG. 14/62/932/5

T.Y a Hilton 2013 16/82/1083/5

As we can see, although the bottom of the receivers on the roster brought the averages down significantly, Hicks fairs favorably even with the Colts best option last year, T.Y. Hilton. If he just plays to his average ability, Nicks should be on the top end of the Colts receiving corps. Given the status of his contract, it would be fair to consider that he might even best those averages. Since signing in early March, Nicks has been able to get acquainted with the Colts culture through workouts, mini-camps and meetings.  Maybe more importantly, working on timing with quarterback Andrew Luck. In fact, one of Hicks criteria for a new team while he was shopping was an elite quarterback. This is what he had this to say about his decision,

“To be a great receiver you have to have a great quarterback and you’ve got to be able to fit in well in the system and I think I do that perfectly here.”

By all indications, he has been able to build rapport with Luck due to Wayne rehabbing and T.Y. having to sit out the first part of OTA’s this spring. His teammates have been very impressed with Nicks as a football player in their workouts and drills that they have participated in. Here were some of their first impressions,

“He’s a big guy who runs his routes well and really attacks the ball, He’s got some of the biggest hands in the league.” Darius Butler, Colts cornerback.

“Every time you line up against (Nicks), you know you’re going to get his best,” said cornerback Greg Toler in June.

Nicks has had his own set of goals to prepare for the new season, and here is what he said last month,

“Just getting the timing down and being on the same communication level that I need to be on so when I get to training camp, I can approach this season running.”

Another reason for optimism for Nicks’ success both short and long-term with the team involves Colts wide receivers coach, Charlie Williams. Williams has been instrumental in maximizing and developing the young receivers on the team since his arrival in 2012. We have seen T.Y. Hilton emerge and the development of young corps of receivers: Da’Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill (no longer with the team), Griff Whalen. The connection with Williams  goes back to his college days  in North Carolina as Nicks’ wide receiver coach.  He was instrumental in developing him to be the receiver that Giants saw worthy of drafting in the first round at number 29 in 2008. The relationship is there for Nicks with someone he knows and trusts-someone who can critique and has his best interests at heart.

So it seems that Nicks is both a good fit scheme-wise and also the physical presence the team has been looking for. Nicks is still relatively young at 26 and potentially has several years left providing injuries don’t start cropping up. It seems his end with Giants was probably best for both as the relationship deteriorated. This relationship led to questions concerning his desire to play hard with his contract uncertain after the season. Nicks decided to roll the dice and take an incentive laden contract as opposed to holding out for a long-term one. He probably knew if he really wanted to be compensated well, he was going to have to use a “Prove It” season. His contract isn’t an issue with the team and the only unknown at this point involves the notion of his long-term future. Is he a short-term team member or perhaps he’s found a permanent home with team that could benefit from his play  and veteran leadership for several more years.  The goal seem to be bringing some more rings to Indy. He would be the perfect veteran to help lead the young group if Wayne decides to hang up the cleats soon.  Everything seems primed for him to have a big year that has a major impact with the team.

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