Who's the best wide receiver in NFC East?
May, 30, 2012
By Dan Graziano | ESPN.com
I respectfully disagree with one aspect of this otherwise fine gallery Jeff Chadiha has put together of the NFL's top 10 wide receivers. There's one NFC East receiver on the list, and the problem is that it's the wrong one. Jeff has the Philadelphia Eagles' DeSean Jackson at No. 10 on his list and the New York Giants' Hakeem Nicks not on it at all.
Again, respectfully, I think Jeff has overlooked Nicks, who is quite simply a better wide receiver than Jackson. Jackson's athletic gifts are enormous, but the fact is that his on-field production (especially now that he contributes so little in the return game) doesn't match what Nicks gives the Giants. Here are some numbers:
Nicks: 46 games, 230 receptions, 3,478 yards, 28 touchdowns
Jackson: 64 games, 245 receptions, 4,353 yards, 23 touchdowns
Past two seasons (including playoffs)
Nicks: 32 games, 183 receptions, 2,688 yards, 22 touchdowns
Jackson: 30 games, 107 receptions, 2,064 yards, 10 touchdowns
Those aren't close, folks -- not even the first set, when you account for the fact that Jackson has been in the league one more year than Nicks. Jackson may still be the most breathtaking and dangerous player in the game when the ball is in his hands, but when judging wide receivers it's important to note how often the ball actually gets to their hands. Of Jackson, Jeff writes that he "let contract issues cloud his focus and hurt his production in 2011," but in truth his 58 catches were 11 more than he had in 2010 and only four off of his career high of 62.
Nicks runs routes better. He separates from defenders better. He finds the ball in traffic better. He catches the ball better. He's just a better player, and it's really no slight against Jackson to say that. Assuming he recovers from the broken foot he suffered last week and is ready for the start of the season, Nicks belongs on a list of the top 10 wide receivers in the game right now. He might even belong at a higher spot than No. 10. He's the best wide receiver in the NFC East right now. As eye-popping as Jackson's first couple of years in the league were, (a) much of his damage was done in the return game and (b) his last couple of years haven't been worthy of a top-10 wideout. Nicks' 2011 season was overshadowed by the breakout of teammate Victor Cruz, but in the playoffs, when Eli Manning needed a go-to guy, he went to his best guy, and that was Nicks.