Combine height: 6-0 3/4
Combine weight: 212 pounds
Combine 40 time: 4.50 seconds
Nicks stepped up his productivity as a junior, with 68 catches for 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns; he added five rushes for 39 yards and another score. For his three-year Tar Heel career, Nicks finished with 181 catches for 2,840 yards and 21 touchdowns along with seven carries for 49 yards and the aforementioned rushing score.
Nicks has good size for an NFL receiver and there’s no questioning his productivity. Scouts also like his route-running, as he seems to find the open spot and adjusts to the ball well. Nicks also possesses good hands and isn’t afraid to go across the middle to make the catch. Scouts have compared him to the likes of Chad Johnson, Anquan Boldin, and Jerricho Cotchery; if he develops into a player of that ilk he’ll have a long and fruitful stay in the NFL.
As with the aforementioned wideouts, the greatest question about Nicks’ game is his speed—or lack thereof. Nicks doesn’t have the top-end wheels to be a deep threat, and some scouts worry that he’ll struggle to gain separation at the NFL level. The only other issue is how much of Nicks’ collegiate productivity can be attributed to defenses spread thin by a quality UNC passing attack. Worst-case, Nicks would appear to have the skills to stick in the league as a possession receiver, with the upside of being a very good wideout capable of making a living working the middle of the field and using his size to shield defenders and make catches in traffic.
It’s possible Nicks sneaks into the bottom of the first round to a team like the Vikings (22) or Dolphins (25) who have a need for a possession-type receiver; the Giants at 29 and Steelers at 32 might also find themselves interested. If Nicks doesn’t go off the board until Gene Washington takes over, he could hear his name as early as 33rd overall to the Lions; the Browns (36), Bengals (38), and Jaguars (39) all could use a player with his skills, and if he’s still on the board at 44 it’s tough to see the Dolphins (using a pick acquired from the Redskins) passing on him again—though if they do, the Giants have the next pick (in a trade from the Saints) and would be happy to snap him up.
Possession receiver isn’t the description you like to hear attached to your fantasy receivers, but in Nicks’ case it’s less an insult than an acknowledgement that while he may lack blazing speed he’s still capable of being a productive pass-catcher. If he goes off the board late in the first round it will likely be as a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver, but to a better team—though a secondary target role on a run-first club like Minnesota or the Giants isn’t exactly a fantasy dream. Nicks’ best-case scenario as a rookie would be in a situation where he might be the go-to guy in the red zone, contributing a bunch of catches to add PPR value and making enough of them in the end zone to help in basic leagues as well.
Long-term, dynasty owners can look at the Boldin, Cotchery, and Ocho Cinco comparisons to get an idea of what kind of upside might be in Nicks’ future. Certainly that’s the most optimistic view, but Nicks shouldn’t be going off the board particularly early in most dynasty drafts, and those later rounds are all about snagging upside. Even if Nicks develops more into a Muhsin Muhammad-type possession receiver he’ll have value in PPR leagues and may even catch enough touchdowns to be a regular contributor to your fantasy club.