Combine height: 6-5
Combine weight: 240 pounds
Combine 40 time: 4.56 seconds
Nelson capped his career at Southern Mississippi with 53 catches for 557 yards and three touchdowns. In four seasons with the Golden Eagles, Nelson caught 157 balls for 2,054 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Scouts were well aware than Nelson offers plenty of athleticism, with a large frame and good speed that would allow him to create mismatches. However, it was his effort as a blocker at the Senior Bowl—where he handled linebackers like Rey Maualuga and Clay Matthews, though he also looked bad on occasion—that caught teams’ attention.
Nelson’s hands and route-running are both decent, though scouts noted lapses in concentration that led to the occasional drop and any pass-catcher transitioning to the pros could polish their routes. With some work in the weight room and an additional 15 pounds or so—without losing any of his speed—Nelson could bring enough blocking to the table to be, if not a complete tight end, at least one who isn’t a liability as a blocker.
Nelson offers a little more than some of his fellow receiver-first tight ends in that, as he flashed at the Senior Bowl, he’s at minimum a willing (and potentially a better-than-adequate) blocker. That means more teams offer a potential fit for Nelson, as early as the lower end of the second round with the Browns (50), Ravens (57), Panthers (59), and Cardinals (63). If the second round is too early, teams like the Rams (66), Bengals (70), Jaguars (72), and Bills (75) could all take a shot early on Day Two.
The easy comparison would be Dustin Keller, but Nelson has at least some acumen as a blocker so perhaps his impact will come a little more quickly. Nelson should be able to stay on the field in short-yardage situations, setting him up for more goal-line looks, and he has enough speed to play in the slot like Dallas Clark so there are intriguing opportunities as a rookie. If Nelson lands with a tight end-needy squad like the Falcons, Bills, or Cardinals he could conceivably offer enough potential to warrant consideration on fantasy draft day.
The one concerns some scouts have that might temper excitement over Nelson’s NFL future is that he was essentially the same player as a senior that he was as a freshman, begging the question: has he maxed out his ability? If he’s able to add strength and bulk without losing speed, Nelson has the athleticism to present all kinds of matchup problems and be a consistent fantasy contributor. Of course, plenty of similarly gifted players have entered the NFL with that kind of potential, and only a handful do much with it. So at best Nelson is an intriguing player to stash deep on a dynasty roster and hope he’s one of those who do pan out.