- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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In the final 20 days before the start of the regular season, we are counting down the top 20 players in the NFC East. For a full explanation, see this post. And if you want to read any of the other posts that have run since we started this series, you can find them all here, in this link.
(Last year: No. 6)
This is an obvious case in which 2012 performance hurt a guy's ranking. But Nicks had enough in the bank prior to last season to keep him from falling any further down the list than this. He averaged 78 catches, 1,122 yards and nine touchdowns per year in 2010 and 2011 before dropping off to 53, 692 and three last year as nagging foot and leg injuries limited him to 13 games. He's shown an ability to perform as one of the top all-around wide receivers in the league when healthy. He's done so under playoff and Super Bowl pressure. And besides all of that, as we've discussed many times, this is my list, based on my opinion, and anyone who's read me for the past couple of years knows Nicks has long been one of my personal favorite players.
I just love the way this guy operates when he's right. He can beat you deep. He can go over the middle. He can use his body to shield the ball from the defender. He can outrun you, outjump you and outfight you for the ball. He locates the ball in traffic before the defenders do. He has great hands. He's a film-room rat, a perfectionist obsessed with honing every aspect of his technique. The only flaw with Nicks is the health, which has betrayed him to at least some extent every year. And maybe that should be enough to knock him down further or even off this list. But for me, what this guy has shown as an NFL player is that he's one of the elites at his position when he's on the field and operating at full strength. No NFC East Top 20 list would be complete without him.
The rest of the rankings: