Hakeem Nicks: Why New York Giants Wide Receiver Will Become a Legend
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Hakeem Nicks has just come off a miraculous 2010 regular season campaign. How miraculous was it? Well, let's compare the stats of Amani Toomer, Plaxico Burress and Hakeem Nicks in their second season with the Giants:
2010: Nicks: 13 games; 79 receptions; 1,052 yards; 11 touchdowns
2006: Burress: 15 games; 63 receptions; 988 yards; 10 touchdowns
1997: Toomer: 16 games; 16 receptions; 263 yards; one touchdown
As you can see, Hakeem Nicks put up the best numbers in his sophomore year with the Giants, and the most incredible part is that he was dealing with injuries and missed three games. Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress are thought of as the best two receivers in Giants history, but I believe that Hakeem Nicks will take that title by the end of his career.
Actually, I believe he will challenge Michael Irvin and Art Monk as the best NFC East receivers of all time.
1. Determination and Drive To Succeed
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Many people don't know this, but Hakeem Nicks has dealt with many ordeals in his young life. From poverty to family members in prison, it is pretty remarkable that he has kept on the right path to become a professional football player. Even with a kid he has stayed focus towards football.
His receiving coach once stated, "It's amazing how he handled things." He went on to say that he never remembered having to get on Nicks, as he referred to Hakeem as a coachable, hard-working kid. One of the main goals of Hakeem's was to be the first person in his family to ever graduate high school.
With the acquisition of Nicks via the 2009 NFL Draft, the Giants received a good locker room presence for, hopefully, the long term.
2. Athletic Ability
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Hakeem Nicks is a big, athletic, strong playmaker with outstanding hands.
Notice how I did not say fast in the description of Nicks. This is because he truly does not have blazing speed. He ran a 4.63-second, 40-yard dash at the combine, which is not slow, but it did raise question marks. He was nursing a hamstring injury, which probably affected his combine time, but even now he is not known for his speed.
So many of you may be asking, "How is he athletic?" Well, he has a great 36-inch vertical leap and is thought of as one of the NFL's strongest receivers. Corners have a hard time containing him because he uses his strength to overpower you from the snap. His strength also helps the run game, as he has made countless blocks on potential tacklers. Also, his strength and leaping ability are huge factors in the red zone. Eli Manning loves to throw the fade route to Nicks, as he has become incredibly effective at overpowering the smaller corner to leap up and snag the football.
3. Work Ethic
Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden
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Actually, people questioned if Hakeem Nicks had the work ethic to cut it in the NFL. Scouts were drawing comparisons to Mike Williams of Seattle when he was drafted by the Lions. Both players came to their respective combines out of shape. Nicks blamed it on the fact that he was still nursing his hamstring.
However, last offseason Steve Smith stated, "I’ve seen him take it more seriously in the film room and here in the offseason." Manning had also said that Nicks really worked hard last offseason. This season the hard work payed off, as he had a Pro Bowl-caliber year. He has also showed that he will fight through the pain to play, as his whole 2009 campaign was played on a broken toe.
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What's a receiver's main job?
Well, the main job of a receiver is to CATCH the ball. It boggles me that some receivers still drop balls at the professional level (Dwayne Bowe, I'm looking at you.). However, Nicks doesn't suffer from this "disease" that plagues many receivers in the NFL. Nicks has bear paws for hands. Seriously, he has bigger hands than the average 6'5'' man.
How big are his hands?
His paws measure at 10.5 inches. That's just incredible. If you look at the the players selected in the first two rounds of the 2009 class, only one player had bigger hands than Nicks, which was OT Eugene Monroe. I'm not saying that his big hands are the only reason he has superb catching ability, but it certainly doesn't hurt.
5. Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and the Run Game
Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Jacobs
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I think the presence of Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and the run game is one of the most important reasons for his current and future success in the league. In Kevin Gilbride's offense, Nicks is the "X" receiver. That means he is usually going to play on the outside and go deep.
With Steve Smith in the slot and Manningham on the outside, teams don't put all their focus on Nicks. In other words, he does not get the "Calvin Johnson treatment" because of all the other weapons around him.
Plus, the Giants are known for their run game and the duo of Jacobs and Bradshaw, not their aerial game. Teams usually stack up in the box versus the Giants, which makes it easier for Nicks to get open.
6. Eli Manning
Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks
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One of the main reasons I see major success in Hakeem Nicks' future is that he has a veteran, experienced, talented quarterback in Eli Manning to grow old with. They have forged a great relationship personally, which has translated nicely on the field. Last offseason, Nicks helped with the Manning Passing Academy, which is an annual camp during the summer.
Many great wide receivers in the NFL don't have great quarterbacks to feed them the ball. For instance, fellow 2009 draftee Michael Crabtree has not shared the same success, as he has had terrible quarterbacks, like Troy and Alex Smith, throwing him the ball.
If these two players can stay together, they could make each other's legacies as the best players in their respective positions.
7. His Success vs. NFC East Rivals
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Week 7: @Dallas: nine receptions 108 yards, two touchdowns
Week 10: Dallas: five receptions, 82 yards
Week 11: @Philadelphia: six receptions, 65 yards
Week 13: Washington: Did not play
Week 15: Philadelphia: six receptions, 63 yards, one touchdown
Week 17: @Washington: Did not play
When you look at these stats against NFC East teams, you can see that he was quite productive in the four division games he played in, tallying 26 receptions, 318 yards and three touchdowns. These teams have absolutely no answer to stop him, and being able to play them six times a year can really boost his stats.
He may have had 500 receiving yards in division games alone if he played against the Redskins' atrocious secondary.
Nicks has been dominating division rivals, however, this may be a short-term advantage for the Giants. It has been reported that the Cowboys and Eagles have showed interest in signing Nnamdi Asomugha or Champ Bailey.
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Hakeem Nicks is only 23, and already has two successful seasons of experience under his belt! Many players don't declare for the draft until his age, but he already is the No. 1 receiver for the G-Men.
I see Nicks playing well into his thirties and into the next decade barring injuries. His playing style, as a bruiser and not a speedster, will help keep his age from being too much of a factor, as he won't solely rely on his speed. People generally are strongest when they are in their thirties, which means we may see the best of Nicks later in his career.
By the end of his career, I think we will remember him as one of the best receivers to ever play in the NFC East. Art Monk and Michael Irvin better watch out, because there is a new receiver who could take over as the best to ever play in the strongest division in the NFL.
Hakeem Nicks and Kevin Boss
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Thanks for reading, and I love to hear constructive criticism and comments!
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