Hakeem Nicks isn't what he used to be, in fantasy football or the real thing. But after departing from the New York Giants to join the Indianapolis Colts, a fresh start might bode well for the receiver.
Just last season, Nicks came into the year with a top-20 fantasy value, per ESPN.com. What followed was yet another underwhelming fantasy performance for Nicks, as he failed to exceed 900 yards again. More importantly for fantasy owners, he didn't score a single touchdown.
But much of the numbers in the last two years have been chalked up to the criticism in New York. Victor Cruz, Nicks' former teammate with the Giants, referenced the struggles, via Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com:
I mean, anytime people say things like that and try to discuss your character, I think it takes a toll on anyone. I think it did for him, and I think it's something where he wants to prove people wrong. He wants to show that he's a team guy, show that he gives his all and everything for his teammates. And I think the fresh start for him in Indy is gonna be just that, so we'll see how it goes for him.
Several athletes over the years have succumbed to pressure and criticism in New York. Not every player thrives when they leave their franchises, though.
Nicks is coming into a good situation with a young quarterback and several players looking to prove themselves. That goes for both the veterans in Reggie Wayne and young players like T.Y. Hilton and Trent Richardson.
But before Nicks could completely move on from his old franchise, he left them with a parting shot. In the second preseason game, the receiver had five receptions for 53 yards in limited action but showed immaturity with a penalty, per Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News:
Hakeem Nicks was once again a dominant receiver, stiff-arming defensive backs, making catches and doing some good old-fashioned trash-talking.
... With 1:25 to play in the first quarter, Nicks caught a pass, broke a Trumaine McBride tackle, then raced toward midfield. As he ran out of bounds, he waved at McBride, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
That taunting penalty nullified a 35-yard reception. Needless to say, he showed flashes of both determination and potential on the field—something fantasy owners hope to see again.
His performance drew some interesting reactions from NFL analysts. Jordan Raanan of NJ.com and NFL: Around the League provided their thoughts on the former No. 1 receiver:
No, one game will not serve as a predictor of the entire season—especially not a preseason contest. But the ability was clearly back for Nicks, something that was missing over the last two years with the Giants.
This also isn't to say that owners should go out and take Nicks early on in the draft. Hilton and Wayne are still the receivers to pick first from the Colts, but Nicks is certainly worth a look in the later rounds with his potential upside.
Dan Graziano of ESPN believes he has a chance to regain some of his old ability:
He's far from the receiver fantasy owners might have expected in the past, especially the 2012 version that held an average draft position of 4.02. That player might not actually be back, but taking a late flier on Nicks is a low-risk, high-reward option.
This time around, Nicks can be had around the 10th round in 12-team standard drafts. That puts him in between players like Tavon Austin and Mike Evans, who offer the same upside. Only with Nicks, owners know the potential production they could see.
Keeper and Dynasty leagues might not see as much value for Nicks ahead of Evans or Austin, but he still has a chance to emerge again. In deep leagues, taking a chance on Nicks will pay off in the long term as he adapts to a new environment and system relying on his success.
*All ADP values courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.