2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Nick Nelson
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Nelson started out his collegiate career at Hawaii, where he had 53 tackles with 15 breakups as a sophomore in 2015. He started as a freshman for the Rainbow Warriors, notching 36 tackles and six breakups. After transferring to Wisconsin, Nelson had an excellent 2017 season for the Badgers and was one of the nation's best cornerbacks at breaking up passes. He had 21 passes defended with 34 tackles, but zero interceptions. Nelson put together a respectable showing at the combine, but tore a meniscus during a pre-draft workout. Following his recovery from surgery, he is expected to be ready for the preseason.
One of the traits that stands out the most is Nelson's ability to play the ball. He tracks passes well downfield and is adept to locate the football while maintaining coverage. Nelson times his hands well and is very good at slapping passes away. He uses his size well to fight receivers and battle them for position without drawing flags. Nelson is a physical cornerback who really challenges receivers. He plays disciplined and sits hard on routes, challenging wideouts to get by him. Nelson lined up in press-man, off-man, and zone coverages.
Nelson has good hands to slap passes away, but one would like to see him intercept more passes than just breaking them up. He had some ugly dropped interceptions in 2017. In the NFL, he may not be a cornerback to take on the elite speed receivers who take the top off of defenses.
In the 2018 NFL Draft, Nelson is likely to be a second-day pick.
Player Comparison: Eric Rowe. In speaking with team sources, the three pro comparisons who were mentioned for Nelson were Rowe, Kareem Jackson and Marcus Williams. As one source said, Nelson is probably a better Williams in pass coverage, and his ball skills are reminiscent of Rowe coming into the NFL. As a pro, Nelson could end up being a corner similar to Rowe.
NFL Matches: Oakland, San Francisco, Green Bay, Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Atlanta, New Orleans, Minnesota, New England, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Houston
There are a lot of teams that could be a fit for Nelson in the 2018 NFL Draft. Buffalo could consider Nelson as the team has to find a replacement for Ronald Darby. The Vikings have to consider a replacement for Terrance Newman, while the Bengals could use a replacement for Adam Jones. Nelson could interest both Minnesota and Cincinnati.
In the NFC South, the Saints have bigger needs, but they also might consider a corner if he's the best player available, plus it would give them a partner to go with Marshon Lattimore. Nelson could be in play for the Saints if he gets to their third-round pick. Atlanta could use a cornerback to replace Jalen Collins.
The Patriots could consider taking Nelson with one of their second-round picks. Malcolm Butler left in free agency, while Stephon Gilmore was disappointing in his first year in Foxborough. Philadelphia may not sign Darby to a long-term extension, and Nelson could be selected as a future replacement for him.
The Browns have to upgrade their cornerback talent, and Nelson could make sense for their third-round pick. The Colts need a young corner to go with Quincy Wilson and replace Vontae Davis. Nelson would be a nice fit for Indianapolis with one of their three second-round picks or their third-round pick.
In the Bay area, both the Raiders and 49ers both could use more cornerback help. Green Bay has used a lot of picks on cornerbacks, but it remains a position to potentially address for the Packers. Nelson could get consideration as a second- or third-rounder for them. In Los Angeles, the Chargers could use a cornerback to go with Casey Hayward. Jason Verrett is nearing the end of his contract and has had durability issues. Nelson would be a nice scheme fit across from Casey Hayward. Dallas could use a third cornerback to go with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Nelson could make sense for the organization on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Texans signed Aaron Colvin, but Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are nearing the end of their careers, while Kevin Johnson is nearing the end of his contract. Thus, Houston could consider Nelson with one of its third-round picks.
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