Fantasy Debate: Dwayne Bowe vs. Hakeem Nicks
There comes a moment in every fantasy football draft where you will sit and wait as the clock winds down. You're in full panic mode, trying to decide who will be your second wide receiver from a list of players full of question marks and players that for the most part, let you down last season. This moment comes from what is a very steep drop off from big names such as Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, AJ Green, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. That drop off isn't due to talent or lack of opportunity with the player, but it's more due to a situation that makes fantasy owners think twice before drafting them as a key component of their teams, especially this year. Two receivers that I constantly find myself battling with, and currently hold a very similar average draft position, are Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (4.12) and New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (5.09). Both of these players are considered to be elite talents and the top target on their teams in the passing game, so why the hesitation? Why are these the type of players that make us lose sleep at night? And who should you trust for the 2013 fantasy football season? Lets take a look at what each brings to the table in terms of upside and risk.
*ADP data (Average Draft Positions) was taken from fantasyfootballcalculator.com for the month of July (PPR 12 Team Mock Drafts)
Hakeem Nicks: In his second year, 2010, Nicks exploded on to the fantasy scene hauling in 79 receptions for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns and followed it in 2011 with similar production, 76 receptions for 1,129 yards and seven touchdowns. Fantasy owners were smiling and had excitement about the chemistry he and Giants quarterback Eli Manning formed. After his Super Bowl win in 2011, Nicks was a big disappointment in 2012 while struggling to recover from a broken foot that occurred during preseason OTAs. Nicks played only 13 games and with a struggling Manning at the helm, he finished the year with a less than impressive 53 receptions for 692 yards and three touchdowns.
So what does 2013 hold for Hakeem Nicks? With the recent news of wide receiver Victor Cruz finally signing his new contract, Nicks is under pressure to perform, as 2013 will be a contract year and a big season could result in a big pay day. I hate to use this a major factor in making decisions for fantasy football, but it is definitely something to keep in mind moving forward. The Giants also recently let their veteran running back Ahmad Bradshaw test free agency where he eventually signed with the Indianapolis Colts leaving an unproven second year back in David Wilson and an untested Andre Brown, who struggled with injury problems himself in 2012. With the run game in a flux, I could definitely see the Giants moving to what they have always been successful at which is a pass-heavy offense taking lots of shots down field and moving the ball effectively thought the air. David Wilson has shown an inability to pass block which makes me a little nervous about Eli Manning and what kind of time he will have in the pocket, but this is correctable, and if Wilson can't get it done the Giants coaching staff will get someone in there that can.
Manning did have a very down year last year posting career lows in passing and disappointing everyone in the process. Blame the Super Bowl hangover if you want or the health issues with Nicks and drops by Cruz, but essentially this falls on Eli and I expect for him to make a big rebound, bringing this offense back to way it was in 2010 and then 2011 for their improbable Super Bowl run. Nick's lingering issues are certainly something people will be concerned with, but with the broken foot injury happening just before preseason and the knee injury happening in Week 2, Nicks was rushed back into action and when a player is rushed a failed recovery is inevitable. At the young age of 25, look for Nicks to be back to full strength this year, but obviously something to keep an eye on during mini camp and preseason moving forward. Along with signing Cruz, the Giants added former Raiders tight end Brandon Myers, who while working the middle of the field should open up some of Nick's favorite deep patterns in one-on-one coverage.
Dwayne Bowe: Although Bowe has been around longer than Nick,s he posted eerily similar numbers over the last three years. With 72 receptions 1,162 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2010, 81 receptions for 1,159 yards and five touchdowns in 2011, and then a similar slump to Nicks, although not related to injury, in 2012 where he ended the year with a disappointing 59 receptions 801 yards and three touchdowns. Bowe has dealt with inconsistency at both the quarterback position and with his coaching staff, which isn't an excuse, but definitely a contributing factor to his drop in production. Bowe's coaching and quarterback woes seem to have been answered in the off-season with the hiring of former Eagles coach, Andy Reid, and the acquisition of former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.
Coach Reid, coming off a roller coaster of offensive production in Philadelphia, has high expectations for a Chief's team that was dead last in the NFL in points scored with 211 under former head coach Romeo Crennel. The 2012 season was a disaster for the Chiefs offensively, so I have no doubts that any coaching change is an improvement, and I find it highly unlikely they find themselves back in the bottom in 2013. The next issue Bowe struggled with was the ineffectiveness and inconsistency of a failed Matt Cassel experiment. With a new coaching staff, the first order of business was to find a replacement for Cassel who luckily for the Chiefs is now a member of the Vikings. The Chiefs chose, of all players, a quarterback that has always been described as mediocre, former 49ers quarterback, Alex Smith. Despite being one of the most effective quarterbacks for the first half of 2012, Smith lost his starting job under extraordinary circumstances to second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick. At the time this signing was regarded as a poor choice, but with a lack of a clear No. 1 quarterback prospect in the NFL draft, the Chiefs came out on top by solidifying a capable veteran in Alex Smith and drafting an extremely talented offensive tackle, Eric Fisher. Smith doesn't have the ability to throw the deep ball, but that really doesn't effect Bowe, as he is a great short route runner with solid hands and is fearless when competing for the ball in traffic. We all know Andy Reid is an improvement in coaching and offensive production for the Chiefs but, he still likes to spread the ball around. With a talented Doug Baldwin, the addition of Donnie Avery and the drafting of tight end Travis Kelce, there just might not be enough to go around, even a talented receiver like Bowe still building chemistry with new quarterback Alex Smith. Although age is never a major concern with wide receiver Bowe will be 29 years old in September, and Bowe has been known to miss games in the past, including three games last season for what was ruled as a minor rib injury.
So who do you draft when it comes down to these two talented receivers with major question marks heading into next year? I personally feel that even with Andy Reid's offensive genius and the addition of Alex Smith at quarterback, Dwayne Bowe just doesn't match the athleticism of the the faster, stronger Hakeem Nicks, who is playing in a contract year and has a lot to prove with the recent signing of Victor Cruz. On top of that, the Giants have a much more established and efficient passing offense than anything the Chiefs will attempt to create in the offseason. The Giants love to take shots deep, and with running back being a bit of a question mark, Nicks presents much more upside. Although Nicks may end up with less receptions than Bowe, he has a better chance at accumulating substantial yardage and possibly double-digit touchdowns. The lingering foot and knee issues from 2012 aren't really a major concern for me at this point and shouldn't be for you either, as Nicks has had plenty of time to rehabilitate, unlike last year where he was rushed onto the field, which really hurt his chances for playing a single game at 100 percent. Draft Nicks with confidence at his current ADP, which we could see rise in late July and early August.
Hakeem Nicks Prediction for 2013: 75 receptions 1,250 yards 11 touchdowns
Dwayne Bowe Prediction for 2013: 80 receptions 1,050 yards 7 touchdowns