Detroit Lions Free Agent Profile: Wide receiver J.J. Nelson
The Detroit Lions haven’t had a true deep threat in many years. They can find one cheap that’s flying under the radar heading into free agency.
When you think of someone who’s 5-foot-10 and 160-pounds, you don’t think they could possibly play in the NFL. Well, J.J. Nelson does, and could certainly help the Detroit Lions. Turning 27-years old in April, the speedster wide receiver has made a living going for the long ball. He’s spent his entire career with the Arizona Cardinals.
Over four seasons, Nelson’s numbers have gone up and down, totaling 81 catches, 1,439 yards and 10 touchdowns for an impressive 17.8 yards per catch. He also chipped in 12 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Last season was almost non-existent for the now fifth-year receiver. Seven catches for 64 yards was a career low. It was noticeable things weren’t going well. His talents and usage isn’t that of a top receiver. The most yardage he’s ever had in a season was 568 yards and six touchdowns (2016). In the slot and lined up outside going deep is his specialty.
The Lions need a burner in their offense. Getting a receiver that can keep a defense on its heels can truly do wonders for the other guys underneath. You don’t want Nelson taking too many shots given his small frame. That should keep his snap count down. Even with a small role, he’s only managed one full season, missing eight total, five being the most in 2015 as a rookie. I’m hoping he bulks up just slightly.
Given the raw route running, he’s somewhat limited as a weapon and isn’t the most creative running after the catch. Drops aren’t frequent but not rare either. Fumbles are slightly problematic considering how low his touches are.
Make no mistake about it, his speed is top-notch (40 yard dash: 4.28 seconds). I know the Lions need a receiver who can create separate from defenders and that’s exactly what JJ does. Above average hands and catch radius allows him to make some impressive catches.
Additionally, there’s added value with him as a return man. You’d have to go back to his senior year when Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) used him heavily in that regard but Detroit needs the experience, especially at kick returner.
Best of all, his price tag won’t cost too much. I can’t imagine anything north of $6-7 million. Little risk and high reward. Getting a fresh start does wonders for most players. JJ Nelson is no exception. There’s a place for him with the Detroit Lions.