I've been debating this decision for quite a while now and it is now a firm belief in my mind that the Baltimore Ravens MUST draft North Carolina wide receiver Hakeem Nicks if he is available in the first round of April's NFL Draft. If Nicks is indeed still there when the Ravens pick at #26 of the first round, then GM Ozzie Newsome needs to grab this guy, as he will make highlight reels and score TD's on a regular basis.
It's one thing to run straight down the field and beat defensive backs for long passes, but how many times does that happen per season compared to making tough grabs at key times, expecially in the Red Zone? I've seen so many guys try to convince me and plug Maryland's Darius Heyward-Bey, but if you take away his 40 yard dash speed, he is nothing more than a third round pick at best, more than likely a second day selection. Not so with Nicks, as he has NFL-ready hands and is a tough guy to bring down after the catch. Speed can be overrated in the NFL, especially based on the Combine's 40 yard dash. The ability to get open, catch the ball and make yardage after the catch blows away straight line speed any day. Of course, the main proof is in the game films, and there is where Nicks separates himself from all the other wideouts, except perhaps Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree, who will be gone early in the first round. However, after comparing Nicks to all the other wideouts in the draft, I have him #2 behind Crabtree, and actually believe he has the requisite skills to be even better than him in the NFL.
Nicks is listed at 6'1" and 210 pounds. The measurements vary slightly between different websites, but this appears to be close enough. Rumor is that he weighed more at his Pro Day due to packing on additional muscle, and we have heard the same thing about Heyward-Bey. DHB is listed at 6'2" and 206 pounds, although his measurements vary up to 6'3" and 218 pounds. Either way, Nicks is a more physical receiver, breaks more tackles and is more of an over-the-middle receiver while DHB is more of a vertical threat. While I know the Baltimore Ravens need a receiver to stretch the field, make no bones about it, Nicks can absolutely do that. In the NFL, it's all about route running and Nicks is much more adept at that, and those moves can open the deep lanes just as well as 40 yard dash speed.
Nicks had 68 receptions for 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns, leading the ACC with an average of 94 receiving yards per game in the 2008 season for the North Carolina Tar Heels. He earned First Team All ACC honors and needed only three seasons to set 14 school records, including career receptions (181), career receiving yards (2,580) and career touchdowns (21). In comparison, Heyward-Bey's 2008 season numbers were Honorable Mention All ACC, 42 receptions for 609 yards and five TD's, averaging 50 yards receiving per game, good for only 9th in the ACC. His career stats paled in comparison to Nicks, with 138 receptions for 2,089 yards and 13 TD's. No one is denying Darius' incredible speed and growth as a wide receiver. That said, there is no time like the present and Nicks is far more prepared to make an impact in the NFL right off the bat than DHB is. Nicks' hands are like glue and while he is known through this YouTube clip for his incredilbe catches in the 2008 Meinke Care Care Bowl game versus West Virginia, his season was full of highlight reel plays (Click here to see more).
You can have your Jeremy Macklin, Percy Harvin, Darius Heyward-Bey, even Michael Crabtree (his foot injury worries me). For pure football skills, including the combination of size, strength, route running, YAC ability and yes, speed (football speed, not just 40 yard dash speed), Hakeem Nicks would be the perfect fit for the Baltimore Ravens with the 26th pick in the first round in April's NFL Draft.