Three years ago he joined the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted rookie free agent. So when the Philadelphia Eagles finally cut ties with perennial under achiever Billy McMullen by trading him to Brad Childress for this 'walk-on' if you will, we were left scratching our heads asking Hank who?
Hank Baskett, listed at 6'4" and 220 lbs, was a two-year starter at New Mexico where he also participated in track and field in the high jump. He put up respectable numbers in his two years starting—121 receptions, 1977 yards, 12 touchdowns.
Obviously scouts hoped his height, combined with his leaping ability, would make him a viable red-zone target—this despite that he never lived up to that expectation even in college for someone with his size.
The knock against him was that he lacked NFL caliber speed, that he wouldn't make many plays after the catch, but could possibly be a large physical presence in the short to intermediate range. This was ironic since in 2006 Baskett became the first rookie in NFL history to notch two touchdown receptions of 85 yards or more (87 yds vs Dallas, 89 yds vs Atlanta) since Billy Howton did it in 1952 with the Packers.
Baskett started only five games, but racked up nearly 500 yards in receptions—seemingly ready to follow the footsteps of the previous year's rookie WR Reggie Brown whose first year, unknowing at the time, turned out to be his best of his career to date.
With the addition of Kevin Curtis in 2007, the Eagles' oft maligned receiving corps seemed to now have a solid core of young talent with which to move forward. It is this point in time where Baskett's promising pro career took an unexpected turn.
Despite such a pleasantly surprising rookie year, Hank Baskett never earned the opportunity to start any games, including preseason, in 2007 for whatever reason. He finished the season with just 142 yards—fewer yards than he had in his final game (177) alone in 2006.
He suited up every game, but the output was almost non-existent. His best outing was three catches for 28 yards and a touchdown in week nine—a mere shell of his rookie season.
Again I ask, what happend to this undrafted rookie free agent who played his way into the starting lineup a year ago? Was it a fluke?
In 2008, it appeared that whatever had kept Hank Baskett down the year before was now behind him. He started in three of the four preseason games and seemed to have the confidence of the coaching staff again.
When it counted most, he kicked off the regular season in style with a 100 yard game in week one including a 90 yard touchdown to trump both of his rookie year bombs. Two weeks later, he led the Eagles with eight catches against a very tough Steeler defense. This was the Hank Baskett we had hoped to see a year ago.
He went on to start in five of the Eagles first six games before the Eagles hit their bye. Coming off the bye, Baskett was inexplicably back on the bench where he stayed, for the remaining 10 games—which brings us up to date.
Who knows what's in store for this year? How many receivers will the Eagles keep? We know for sure that Curtis, DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant and Jeremy Maclin will be there. Reggie Brown, while playing mostly with Kolb and Feely this preseason, has shown some fight in him, and frankly doesn't look too shabby. Even rookie Brandon Gibson has been somewhat impressive this training camp.
We've already mentioned six receivers not including Baskett, and there's no way Reid is keeping seven. He'll actually only keep five, maybe a sixth, but not necessarily.
Has the Hank Baskett era run its course already? I'd like to say no, but if we hear otherwise in the coming week, I won't be surprised—disappointed, but not surprised.