Way back in 2009, the Philadelphia Eagles were coming off another NFC Championship game loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Brian Westbrook had an injury-plagued year, Brian Dawkins, Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas were let go and they were armed with two first round draft picks.
The Eagles traded one of those first-rounders to acquire Jason Peters, a move everyone will agree worked out. But that wasn’t the only move the Eagles made in the first round.
The Eagles packaged the 21st pick with a sixth-rounder to move up to 19. They ultimately moved up to select wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. It is hard to believe, but even in wide receiver-crazed Philadelphia, fans were stunned by the move.
Maclin was a small, speedy receiver, but the Eagles already had similar players in DeSean Jackson and Kevin Curtis. Many fans wanted tight end Brandon Pettigrew, and some wanted another wide receiver. Hakeem Nicks.
According to reports, this deal by the Eagles was a major coup, because the rival New York Giants were attempting to trade up to take the same player. The Eagles got their man, and the Giants would have to settle. But for who?
With the 29th pick in the 2009 draft, the New York Giants selected, wide receiver from the University of North Carolina, Hakeem Nicks.
Now neither were locks to be in superstars at the next level, but Maclin was regarded as the better prospect. At 6’0″ and 198 pounds, he ran a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. He was known as an explosive player who would need time to learn to play in an NFL offense.
Nicks was not thought to be as fast or explosive, timing a 4.51 in the 40. He was, however, a bigger and stronger receiver, at 6’1″ and 212 pounds. He also dazzled people with his 8-catch, 217-yard, three-touchdown performance in the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Over their careers, they have had somewhat similar levels of production, but you be the judge of who has been the more productive player.
In 44 career games, Maclin has caught 189 passes for 2,596 yards, a 13.8 average per reception. He has scored 19 touchdowns and has nine receptions over 40 yards. He has lost two fumbles in his career and catches 62.4 percent of the passes thrown his way.
Nicks has played in 42 games and he has 202 receptions, 3,034 yards and a 15.0 yards per catch average. He has 24 touchdown catches and 11 plays over 40 yards. He has never lost a fumble and has a 60.3 percent catch rate.
There isn’t too much separation between the two over a three-year span, although Nicks has been more productive, scoring five more touchdowns and posting two 1,000-yard seasons to Maclin’s zero. He even has more big plays than Maclin, who was supposed to be more explosive.
If those numbers don’t prove anything, how about Nicks’ first two career playoff games, both wins?
He has totaled 13 catches for 280 yards and four touchdowns, two scores in each game. He has made big play after big play for a team heading to the NFC Championship game.
Maclin had a big playoff game in a loss to the Cowboys in 2009, with 7 receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown, but he was not the difference-maker Nicks is proving to be.
Again, numbers don’t tell the whole story, but Nicks has a physicality in his game that no Eagles receiver has. He makes plays that no Eagles receiver could make. He shields defenders from the ball and he wins jump-balls. The Eagles don’t do that.
If Donovan McNabb or Michael Vick had Nicks instead of Maclin, they both would have flourished further. His skill set is a better complement to DeSean Jackson than Maclin’s.
If the Eagles had it to do over, who would they go with? Probably Maclin still, because they would never say they made a mistake, but I would guess people in Philadelphia would do it a little different.