Two of the most talented wide receivers in the game continue to see their fantasy value decrease each and every year.
Hakeem Nicks can’t seem to stay on the field, while Steve Smith isn’t exactly getting any younger. It’s upsetting to watch both of these guys continue to lose fantasy value, because quite honestly, I like them both this year. However, if I had to choose one on my fantasy roster, which one would (and should) it be?
Making the case for Nicks
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If Hakeem Nicks can play a full 16 games, he will finish as at least a top-1o fantasy receiver. It’s that simple. The part that isn’t so simple? Whether or not Nicks can actually stay on the field. Over his four-year career, he has yet to post a 16-game campaign, and has played only 13 games twice already. However, for the most part, Nicks has still managed to produce like a number one fantasy wideout. Take a look back at the 2010 season. Nicks only played 13 games, but still caught 79 balls for 1,052 yards and a career-high 11 scores. That stat line was good enough for eighth in fantasy points at his position that year. Nicks has one of the most dominant skill sets among wide receivers, possessing a tremendous combination of size (6’1″, 208 lbs) and speed. Also, he may have one of the best (and biggest) pair of hands in all of football. He had the eighth-fewest drops a season ago. Also, while last year was a bit of a lost season for Nicks in 2012, keep in mind that the Giants offense as a whole was uncharacteristically poor. I mean, Eli Manning his worst statistical campaign since 2008. Nicks and his quarterback have been working together since the end of minicamp, continuing to build more chemistry. Despite Victor Cruz’s emergence, I still firmly believe that Nicks is (and has been) the best Giants receiver for years. Cruz may be the safer fantasy option, but if Nicks stays healthy, he will without a doubt surpass his teammate as the better fantasy option in the Giants’ receiving corp.
Making the case for Smith
Between all of these other younger wideouts emerging and Smith turning 34-years old, many people are starting to forget about the Panthers’ veteran receiver. Fair, but despite his age, Smith can still get the job done. He is still one of the faster wideouts who continues to prove the “size matters” theory wrong. At 5’9″, not many receivers are as nasty and furious as Smith at the line of scrimmage. You’d think a guy of his size would be more of a slot receiver, but that hasn’t been the case one bit. Smith goes right at even the biggest corners in the league and serves as a downfield threat. His aDOT (average depth of target) over the past three seasons are as follows: 13.5, 14.3 and 10.4. He hasn’t been posting the other-worldly fantasy numbers, but Smith has been fairly productive over the years. Throughout his career, Smith has seven 1,000-yard seasons and six seasons with seven touchdowns or more. Rumblings out of Carolina indicate that the Panthers are looking to become even more of a run heavy team this year, which may hurt Smith’s value a bit. But Cam Newton took a step forward as a pocket passer in his sophomore year (higher passer rating, lower interceptions) and Smith is still his clear cut number one target in the passing game. Of course, a secondary option opposite of Smith has been missing since 2008 when they had Muhsin Muhammad. With that being said, Smith will continue to draw the majority of attention for opposing secondaries, which will make it more difficult for him to produce high end fantasy numbers. While there isn’t a whole lot of upside with Smith anymore, a 1,000-yard, five-touchdown season is at least in his 2013 forecast.
I’m not giving up on either of these guys, but I am definitely siding with Nicks on this one. Sure, his injury issues are a bit concerning, but it’s not like he has missed a massive amount of contests throughout his career. Over his four-year career, Nicks has posted game totals of 14, 13, 15 and 13. The thing that frustrates fantasy owners is that he often has that dreaded “Q” next to his name all week. However, at 26-years old, he still has way more upside than Smith and hasn’t even been close to his ceiling yet. Like I said, if Nicks can manage to play a full season, watch out.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.