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Steven Nelson, the two-year starter at corner for the Oregon State Beavers, enters the 2015 NFL Draft after twice earning All Pac-12 Conference honors. In 2014, Nelson was named Second Team All-Conference following a solid senior campaign that totaled 60 tackles, 2 INTs and 8 PBUs. He participated in the 2015 Senior Bowl where he shined during the week of practices. In 2013, Nelson began the season as the nickel back but would ultimately earn a starting gig for the final 9 games of the year. He ended the season with 62 tackles, 6 INTs and 8 PBU’s. He was recognized as an Honorable Mention All-Conference player for his efforts. For his career, Nelson totaled 122 tackles, 8 INTs and 24 PBUs. Nelson began his career at the JUCO level before transferring to OSU in December of 2012. Physically, Nelson checks-in a bit undersized, although he plays the position with a bigger man’s mentality. He doesn’t shy away from contact and he likes mixing it up with the opposing receiver. He’s a bit limited from an athletic standpoint, as his Scouting Combine numbers were average to below-average for an NFL corner. The biggest concern with Nelson is the fact that he combines below average height with below average length and below average leaping ability…a worrisome combination. Nelson is at his best in zone coverage where he is able to showcase his instincts and awareness to make a play on the ball. While he’s a competent man coverage guy who flashes a nice ability to jam the receiver at the LOS, flip & turn, and run downfield, he’s most likely to succeed in space where his size won’t be at issue. Nelson is a reliable playmaker who can convert opportunities into interceptions, while also possessing a sound and tough tackling ability. His physical style of play is an asset in the run game, playing at times like an undersized safety.
BOTTOM LINE: Steven Nelson is the kind of scrappy and tough corner that tends to find success in the NFL. While he may be lacking the traditional measurables expected out of an early round pick, his physical coverage skills combined with his instincts and field quickness will appeal to teams in need of a nickel back with upside. Nelson will play in the NFL for a long time.
GRADE: 7.2 (3rd Round)
-Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)