In case you missed it, an interesting tidbit of news emerged from an otherwise typical boring offseason day. At the NFL Combine, the Tennessee Titans took a few moments to interview two potential first-round wide receivers: Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey and North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks.
Heyward-Bey and Nicks have a few things in common. Both are gifted players entering the draft after their junior seasons. Bey and Nicks also played their college ball at ACC schools. Last but not least, each talented wide out could be on the radar of a Titan team that has the #30 pick in the first round of April's draft.
Of course, we all know that the likelihood of the Titans selecting a WR in the first round is extremely low. However, if the apocalypse occurs with a receiver being drafted at #30, Hakeem Nicks is the guy I'd like to hear being announced as the team's choice.
The Nicks vs. Heyward-Bey battle is a vivid example of the typical dilemma faced by NFL talent evaluators. Despite not possessing top-of-the-line foot speed, Nicks is a guy who produces where it matters the most: on the football field. On the other hand, Heyward-Bey's strengths are his measurables: good size and terrific wheels.
Personally, I like a guy who produces on the gridiron. Excellent forty-times are great (Chris Johnson immediately comes to mind), but the ability of a guy to get it done between the hashmarks is what stands out to me. Jerry Rice didn't have the greatest forty-time, but he more than compensated for his lack of straight-line-speed with a lethal combination of precise route-running and football quickness.
During his junior year, Nicks snagged an impressive 68 balls to the tune of 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns. In a remarkable performance, Hakeem's 8 catches for 217 yards and 3 scores against West Virginia was one of the highlights of last year's bowl season.
He isn't going to blow by you, but what Nicks is able to do successfully is use a combination of athleticism and sticky hands to best opposing defenders. He's a playmaker, a guy who is going to make the routine grabs as well as some of the more difficult ones.
Heyward-Bey is more along the lines of your typical draft diamond in the rough. His excellent speed will translate into a great forty-yard dash time at the combine, which will inevitably lead to a rapid increase of his draft stock.
I like Bey's measurables but if the Tennessee Titans do the unexpected and draft a receiver in the first round, here's to hoping they go with the playmaking ability and production of Hakeem Nicks instead of the raw potential of Darrius Heyward-Bey.