Hakeem Nicks Gets Some Due Attention from ESPN Panel

Hakeem Nicks is arguably the best wide receiver of the 2009 WR Draft class, according to an ESPN Panel

When pitted against Mike Wallace, Percy Harvin, Michael Crabtree, and ultimately against the other finalist Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin for best WR of the 2009 draft class — Dan Graziano of ESPN NY compellingly (read absolutely nails it) places NY Giants Hakeem Nicks as the best overall WR of his class:

The biggest concern about Nicks coming out of North Carolina was whether he had the top-end speed a No. 1 NFL wideout needs to stretch the field. But his 14.6 yards-per-catch average in his first two seasons answered that. Of the receivers in this group, only Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace (at an incredible 20.3) has a higher average.

But while Wallace has functioned only as a deep threat, and Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin may have more speed, Nicks has much more to his game. He’s a devoted film-study nut (since high school, he claims). He’s been a great-hands red zone target for Eli Manning. He has the size to outmuscle defenders in the end zone. He locates the ball in traffic better than any other receiver in this group and, more importantly, better than the defensive backs who are covering him. The latter skill is critical, because it makes him a risky guy to defend even with double-teams.

Nicks is, in short, the best all-around receiver in this exciting third-year group. He’s shown the ability to do more things on the field than has Percy Harvin, and he’s proved more to this point than has Michael Crabtree. He also finds himself in far more secure and potentially beneficial surroundings than either of those two.

If you went with Pro Football Focus to go with the unbiased rankings, you’d see that Percy Harvin is clearly the most consistently explosive guy in the mix over the past 2 years. But Hakeem Nicks and Mike Wallace are right there — and Nicks improved his performance dramatically in 2010 even if you thought 2009 was a great year for the rookie. At the same time, Maclin has clearly been in the shadow of Jackson who is unquestionably the most explosive receiver in the NFL, and Nicks benefits tremendously from being that #1 WR option on the Giants when it comes to scoring touchdowns both in and out of the red zone. For Nicks to be rising to the top while in the same company as Harvin, Wallace, Crabtree and Maclin – I think it says a lot about his innate talents as well as the job the Giants offense has done to elevate him into a top threat in the NFL.

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