*Image courtesy of NFL.com
Jordan Hicks is an athletic freak at 6’1”, 236 lbs who has drawn repeated praise for the way he attacks the weight room, prepares for games and takes care of his body. Unfortunately, he was also an injury waiting to happen throughout his 5-year college career (2 redshirt seasons) at The University of Texas. The Philadelphia Eagles still saw enough upside in Hicks to make him the 84th overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. This was ahead of some other notable linebackers in Ramik Wilson, Kwon Alexander, and Jake Ryan.
“I think a lot of people like his physical traits, but people worry about his durability.” — Mike Mayock
Hicks’ pSPARQ score was higher than all but one LB (Stephone Anthony) taken ahead of him in the 2015 Draft. That list includes Shaq Thompson, Eric Kendricks, Benardrick McKinney and Denzel Perryman. These are all players who have or are expected to be premium producers on Dynasty rosters for years to come.
Fast forward two seasons and Hicks is locked in as the starting middle linebacker in DC Jim Schwartz’s attacking (Note: the wide 9 designation is not unique to Schwartz or Philadelphia) 4-3 defense.
|Jordan Hicks||Games||Interceptions||Fumbles||Sacks & Tackles|
In his first 24 games in the league (his rookie season was cut short with a pec injury), he has seven interceptions, 14 passes defensed, four fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and two sacks.
He’s just the fifth player in NFL history — and the only linebacker — to have that many INTs, fumble recoveries and forced fumbles in the first two years of his career.
|Player||Position||Team||Games Played||Player Snaps||Team Snaps||Participation %|
Hicks registered the 19th most player snaps at the LB position per www.idpguru.com
A 16-game starter in 2016, Hicks record 86 total tackles to go with 5 interceptions which is massive for the linebacker position. Hicks displayed the type of instincts and awareness that many thought he lacked.
NFL.com Draft Profile Weaknesses – Despite intelligence and preparation, still considered only average with instincts and anticipation. Considered by evaluators as robotic and assignment-rigid.
While reviewing some of his 2016 tape (gif below), I saw an ascending player who flashed the ability to quickly process information and attack the play.
As an Eagles fan, I vividly recall watching him flash at times during the 2016 season. His week 17 performance against the Dallas Cowboys (5 total tackles, 2 Ints, 2 PD’s) was just the cherry on top of an impressive sophomore season. It also provided a glimpse into what 2017 could hold for Hicks owners. I don’t care that both picks were courtesy of Mark Sanchez and that week 17 doesn’t factor into most fantasy seasons.
Now let’s look at what the primary linebackers have done in Schwartz system over the years.
|Year||Team||Pos||Primary LB||Games Started||Total Tackles||Sack||Int||FF||FR|
|14 yr. avg||15||116||2||1||1||1|
We are talking about tackle machines (7.7/game) who contributed in the sack and turnover departments as well. The primary linebacker has consistently produced in large part due to the spread out, attacking nature of Schwartz system. By comparison, the following linebackers were both Top 20 in standard IDP scoring per fantasydata.com in 2016:
- Kiko Alonso 15 games played 114 tackles 0 Sack 2 Int 1 FF 4 FR
- Eric Kendricks 15 games played 109 Tackles 3 Sack 1 Int 1 FF 1 FR
Let’s look at Keith Bullock specifically as his rookie season coincided with Jim Schwartz’s lone season as linebacker’s coach before his promotion to the defensive coordinator position in Tennessee.
|Games||Def Ints||Fumbles||Sacks & Tackles|
At 6’3” 235lbs, the 30th overall pick in the now infamous 2000 Tom Brady NFL Draft casts a strikingly similar on field silhouette to Hicks. Hicks spent his rookie season learning behind incumbent starter DeMeco Ryans before earning the starting nod in 2016. This closely mirrored Bullock’s early career arc as he stepped into the starting linebacker position in Schwartz second year as Defensive Coordinator and proceeded to rack up impressive stats over the next seven seasons.
DFF IDP LB Rankings has Hicks as LB33 behind the likes of Derrick Johnson (LB20), Avery Williamson (LB24) and Kamalei Correa (LB30). I could easily make a case for Hicks over each of them whether fielding a contending or rebuilding team.
Fantasy Pros seasonal IDP Rankings has Hicks as a Tier 6 LB at #37 overall. In seasonal leagues, I would gladly draft him over the following Tier 5 LBs: Malcolm Smith #28, Danny Trevathan #31, and Lawrence Timmons #35.
Conclusion: Jordan Hicks is no doubt being groomed to be the centerpiece three down linebacker in Philadelphia for the foreseeable future. The attacking nature of Schwartz defense should afford Hicks the freedom to continue to make plays all over the field so long as he can avoid the trainer’s table. (NOTE: Hicks broke his finger slipping near a pool during his honeymoon in Greece. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson revealed that Hicks needed a “minor procedure” to fix his injured hand but shouldn’t miss any time.)
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