Detroit Lions Draft Profiles: J.J. Nelson, WR, UAB


J.J. Nelson flew a bit under the radar during his collegiate career at UAB.  He produced as a receiver (42 receptions – 846 yards – 8 touchdowns as a junior, and 35 receptions – 655 yards – 4 touchdowns as senior), and also excelled as a kick returner (averaging over 38 yards per return, and running four kicks back for touchdowns as a senior).

At the NFL combine Nelson just flew, period.  He ran the forty in a blazing 4.28 seconds, and looked natural in pass-catching drills as well.  With the Detroit Lions looking for big-play (and consistent) production from a receiver not named Calvin Johnson or Golden Tate, Nelson could be just the man they’re looking for.

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Notable Combine Measurables

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 156 pounds

40-yd Dash: 4.28 seconds

20-yd Shuttle: 4.15 seconds

3-Cone Drill: 7.02 seconds

Vertical Jump: 36”

Broad Jump: 10’7”

Bench Press: Did Not Participate

Traits And Projected Round

Nelson is a touchdown waiting to happen. He is quick, fast, and explosive. He is adept at turning short passes into long gains, but he is equally effective at getting behind his man and hauling in a long pass. Despite his (lack of) size, Nelson plays with no fear, and a sense of physicality. He displays consistent willingness to go over the middle of the field to catch passes. He also displays natural hands (not relying on his body to catch the ball) and good route-running ability. As a kick-returner, his speed and vision make him extremely difficult to contain.

Nelson is slight (155 pounds), but not tiny (5’10”).  While his diminutive size will cause pause for many NFL scouts, someone will take a chance on his speed and big-play ability.  Given an opportunity in the return game, Nelson could turn out to be a success, perhaps a better, slightly bigger version of Brandon Banks.  Given an opportunity in the passing game, Nelson could prove to be a terrific slot receiver in the mold of the Arizona Cardinals’ John Brown.  If the Lions have an interest in Nelson, they’ll have to hope no one else has the same idea, before their 6th round pick.

Why The Lions Could Draft Jamarcus Nelson

Last offseason the Lions made it a priority to sign free agent wide receiver Golden Tate.  They targeted Tate, to be an effective complement to Calvin Johnson, and to add dimension to the passing game.  The signing proved to be a wise one – Tate led the Lions in receptions and receiving yards, and the whole offense benefited.

Now that the Lions have improved their their starting receivers’ production, they need to improve their overall and depth and explosiveness at the position.  Corey Fuller and Jeremy Ross were inconsistent at best last season, and Ryan Broyles barely saw any playing time.  J.J. Nelson has the speed to help stretch the field, and the athletic ability to pick up plenty of yards after the catch.  He could also add value to their return game (both punt and kick returns), which appears to be stuck in neutral, after an underwhelming season by Jeremy Ross.

Former Lion Comparison: Mel Gray


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