It was four short seasons ago that Hakeem Nicks was fantasy football’s seventh highest scoring receiver. It’s not easy to remember that Nicks was a fantasy stud before he was a pariah.
A lot of (really) awful developments turned Nicks into a barely-useable fantasy pass catcher in 2012 and 2013. Injuries, questionable effort, refusing to show up on time for team meetings — it’s been a bad couple years for Nicks, who now takes his diminished talents to Indianapolis.
The Colts wisely signed Nicks to something close to a flier contract, making the oft-injured 26-year-old receiver prove that he can still be a useful part of a functional offense. Nicks has officially gone from a potentially dominant No. 1 option and red zone threat to the third option in the pass game, behind T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne.
Nicks, as you likely know, hasn’t reached pay dirt in 17 straight weeks. And it’s not for lack of opportunity: Nicks was the only player with more than 100 targets in 2013 who didn’t notch a touchdown. He hasn’t scored a touchdown during the second Obama administration.
Before we look at what sort of opportunity there might be for Nicks in Indy, let’s take a peek at his per-game fantasy production (PPR) since 2010.
|Year||Fantasy points per game||WR rank|
It’s enough to make a Nicks dynasty owner weep in public. Just when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse for Nicks after an abysmal 2012 campaign, they did. He was trapped in the Giants’ dysfunctional excuse for an offense and slowed by a string of lower body injuries that sapped the separation skills he once displayed on a weekly basis.
Not even Nicks’ 10.5-inch hands could save him.
Nicks’ comps in rotoViz’s similarity score app — a useful tool for projecting a player’s prospects — have dropped into the area of Brian Hartline in 2011, David Givens in 2005, and Jerricho Cotchery in 2010. Again, this is an exercise in fantasy depression.
Nicks’ similarity score median per-game production sits at a paltry 8.8 fantasy points.
It’s not like Nicks was slowly fazed out of the Giants’ passing attack. He continued to see a good amount of opportunity, and fantasy owners saw diminishing returns. Here’s a look at Nicks’ points per opportunity since 2010, according to Pro Football Focus.
|Year||Fantasy points per opportunity|
It would be tough to find another receiver whose points per opportunity dipped by almost half in four years. This dramatic drop in efficiency makes me more than a little wary that Nicks can be a viable fantasy option in any offense, even one that embraced the passing game in the latter stages of 2013.
Colts’ offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton finally used his most potent weapon, Andrew Luck, in the final couple months of the 2013 season after leaning on the running game and committing to a conservative aerial approach for much of the fall.
Luck attempted an average of 32 passes per contest in the first seven games of 2013 — a number that jumped to 38.7 attempts in the season’s final eight games, including the playoffs. The Colts, during the latter span, embraced a hurry-up approach that led to a few giant stat lines for Luck and primary target Hilton.
The only way for Nicks to prove worthy of our fantasy fascination in 2014 will be for Hamilton and company to continue their commitment to a fast-paced pass-heavy attack. Without that, there simply won’t be enough footballs to go around for Wayne, Hilton, and Nicks.
Nicks could take a role similar to that of Da’Rick Rodgers, a much more exciting fantasy prospect. Rodgers, for the record, never saw more than nine targets in a game last year. He was targeted two times or less in four of his seven games as a Colt.
I’m going to keep expectations for Nicks well in check for the next few months. Barring an injury to a key part of the Colts’ passing game, I don’t think he’ll serve as anything more than a WR3, which, for Nicks, would be a giant upgrade from what he’s been since 2012.