We are back it and, by now, you should know the drill. We are breaking down and analyzing the tough decisions, so you have the tools to make the right choice for your draft. Today we tackle the dynamic duo at WR in New York. You are on the clock, who do you take: Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks?
11stever11 – Victor Cruz
Fantasy football owners are cautious when selecting a breakout player early in the draft. Victor Cruz is not an exception to this. However, when taking a look at the numbers, Cruz does not have as many red flags as some may think. Let us first take a look at targets last season. In 2011, Cruz had 131 targets in 16 games. It is interesting to note he was only targeted four times the first two games. Nicks last year had 133 targets in 15 games. I expect both Cruz and Nicks to get around 130 targets again. Even if Nicks does get more targets, Cruz can still put up stronger stats due to his big play ability. Cruz was able to put up an impressive average of 18.7 yards per catch, while Nicks had an average of 15.7 yards per catch.
When the game was on the line Cruz was solid. In the fourth quarter last season when the Giants were within seven points of their opponent, Cruz scored four touchdowns with 26 receptions going for 483 yards. Nicks on the other hand had 13 receptions for 194 yards and one touchdown. Eli Manning relied on Cruz, and that won’t change this season. Cruz had nine touchdowns, which is repeatable. The main concern with Cruz is his yards after catch going down. Last season, he put up 595 yards after catch, which was sixth best in the NFL. I expect Cruz to put up around 350 yards after the catch this season. If he had this total last season he would have gained 1,291 yards, which still would be in the top 10 in the NFL. I expect a 1,250-yard season, but he has the upside to put up more yards.
Nicks has never played a full season in his three-year career, and is coming off a broken foot. The Giants do expect him to be ready for Week 1, but he still may have a slow start to the season. Cruz will come out of the slot, which helps his value in PPR. Eli Manning relies on the slot receiver (see: Smith, Steve) so I expect at least 75 receptions this season. Both wide receivers will put up top 10 seasons, but I prefer the player that will be there all 16 games.
murphysxm – Hakeem Nicks
All one has to do is re-watch last year’s playoffs to see how explosive and dominant Hakeem Nicks can be (28 catches, 444 yards and four TDs in four games). I am also a fan of Cruz, and I see him as a high end WR2, but Nicks has as much upside as any WR in football. I also think it actually helps Nicks that Cruz stepped up last year. He will keep defenses honest and will make it nearly impossible to put bracket coverage on Nicks. The Giants will continue to be a pass-first team, and Nicks is the unquestioned go-to WR for Eli Manning in the red zone. In fact over 70% of Nicks’s TDs came while the Giants where in the red zone.
I am by no means expecting a Drew Bennett or Michael Clayton disappearance act from Cruz, but it is a fact that we only have one season of stats four him, and with Nicks I have three notable years of production. As a side note, how many of you are swearing under your breathe because you drafted one of those chumps the year after their one-hit wonder breakout year? Another red flag for me and Cruz is the distance of his TDs last year (four, 24, 25, 28, 68, 72, 74, 74 and 99 yards). Much like people expect Cam Newton’s rushing TDs to decrease, and it is hard to see Rob Gronkowski matching his TD total. I find it very hard to feel confident that Cruz will be able to recreate his big-play exploits of last year. Cruz also only had 16 catches all season out of two-WR sets. I see last year as a little lightning-in-a-bottle for Cruz.
The elephant in the room is that Nicks has absolutely had injury issues and he is dealing with one now. However, I think that is helping his ADP (4.02) this season and making him a great value. Currently he has a lower ADP than Cruz (3.11). In addition, although I don’t put a tremendous amount of stock in where a guy gets drafted, Nicks was a first-round talent and picked accordingly, while Cruz went undrafted. That does say something to me. Cruz took advantage of every opportunity he had, but Nicks is the clear focus of the Giants passing offense, while Cruz is the complement. More times than not, I want the offensive focus on my roster. I have Nicks projected for 90 catches, 1300 yards and 11 TDs, and that’s after I bumped them down one game’s worth of stats assuming an injury. That is value I will take in the fourth round all day long, and if he stays healthy, look out.
Just an average guy that enjoys talking fantasy. Follow me here in the forum under username murphysxm.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!