For Eagles fans, or even fans of other teams who want to pull off a trade with the Arizona Cardinals for the physical force that is Anquan Boldin, this comparison is between him and Hakeem Nicks. The Philadelphia Eagles must keep the 21st overall pick to shore up the receiving corps.
Let's take a look at the current crop of receivers for this upcoming NFL Draft with five possible WRs draftable in the first round:
- Michael Crabtree: 6’1” 214 lbs. – possession receiver
- Jeremy Maclin: 6’0'' 199 lbs. - speed receiver
- Percy Harvin: 5’11” 195 lbs. – speed receiver
- Darrius Heyward-Bay: 6’2” 206 lbs. – speed receiver
- Hakeem Nicks: 6’1” 212 lbs. – possession receiver
Of these five, two have the frame and playing style closest to Boldin—Crabtree and Nicks. The other three would be your preference if DeSean Jackson’s 62 receptions, 912 yards, and two touchdowns in the regular season and 11-207-1 postseason statistics as a rookie were not good enough for you.
With Crabtree and Nicks, the tale of the scouting report shows an awkward draft tale seen many times in the NFL. The level of hype between the two wideouts has Crabtree near-mythical status, while Nicks has had the first-to-second-round-tweener tag attached to him.
Both have fairly comparable positives in the analysis but the negatives present a different story.
“Needs to speed up his release, as he jumps off the line too often trying to lull his defender to sleep. Does not have the elite speed to separate from quick corners on the outside, although the point typically was moot at Tech because he could overpower collegiate talent. Not sudden with the ball in his hands, dancing awkwardly at times instead of using his size and strength. Must improve consistency on downfield blocking, as he has the size to be effective but gives inconsistent effort to get to his man or sustain. Runs with the ball loose in the open field.” – NFL.com
“Questionable deep speed. May lack the top-end speed to challenge defensive backs over the top, allowing savvy NFL defenders to close off the crossing routes on which Nicks generated much of his success. One of three legitimate NFL-caliber receivers for the Tar Heels, and capitalized on defenses spread thin.” – NFL.com
The only knocks against Nicks (68-1,222-12) are his possible lack of deep speed (after 20 yards), and playing on the same offense with one receiver (Brandon Tate, 16-376-3) who tore up his knee five games into the season, and another (Brooks Foster, 30-334-2) who could never step up as a big time receiver.
Crabtree, on the other hand, has a host of issues that can unnerve a coach out the gate besides his foot injury. Considering the millions of dollars in difference between a top-10 pick and a bottom first-round selections, not including the sacrifice for such a high pick (both first and either a second or third), it is more feasible for the Eagles to take a surer product at a lesser price.
For the argument for keeping the 21st and not necessarily the 28th selection, the Miami Dolphins present a threat with the 25th overall pick. Bill Parcells, the former head coach known for calling Terry Glenn “she” and Terrell Owens “The Player,” has personally travelled with Dophins head coach Tony Sparano and backup QB Chad Henne to Chapel Hill, NC to scout Nicks.
Other receivers whose lack of deep speed was also criticized before the draft were Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, and Jerry Rice.
- Rice: 4.6 seconds at 6'2" 200 lbs.
- Boldin: 4.70 seconds at 6'1" 217 lbs.
- Fitzgerald: 4.63 seconds at 6'3" 220 lbs.
- Nicks: 4.53 seconds at 6’1” 212 lbs.
It’s evident the better receivers in the league may have not run the best 40-yard dash time, but what more intelligent scouts will do is to look at the 10- and 20-yard intervals to see how well a wideout can obtain their speed during route running. For this example, we will stick with Boldin and Nicks.
10-yard interval of 40-yard dash
- Boldin: 1.62 seconds
- Nicks: 1.52 seconds
20-yard interval of 40-yard dash
- Boldin: 2.68 seconds
- Nicks: 2.60 seconds
We can even compare other workout drills like the 20-yard shuttle, vertical jump, and three-cone drill:
- Boldin: 4.25 seconds
- Nicks: 4.43 seconds
- Boldin: 33.5''
- Nicks: 36''
- Boldin: 7.35 seconds
- Nicks: 6.96 seconds
But in the end, the best proof, as usual, is the film, so enjoy...
The point of the comparison is not to necessarily say that Nicks is exactly like Boldin; that is about the same as saying Michael Vick is Randall Cunningham. What is being suggested is that, due to similar draft ranges, size, skill sets, and drive, Hakeem could have the same outcome as Anquan did in 2003 and onward.