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NFL Draft 2018: Wisconsin CB Nick Nelson Scouting Report

The former Hawai’i transfer was a top corner in the Big Ten. How high could he go in the draft?

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Wisconsin vs Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not often a transfer comes into Wisconsin’s football program, and there is buzz surrounding the prospect leaving school early for the NFL Draft before he’s played a snap for the team.

That seemed to be the case for Nick Nelson, who was instantly one of the top defensive backs in the Big Ten upon setting foot on the field this season.

Despite not recording an interception during his final collegiate season, Nelson showed the ability to change a game with his coverage. He was often assigned to the other team’s top receiver, and shut down top targets in the Big Ten like D.J. Moore and SImmie Cobbs, who will also be drafted this season.

Nick Nelson Measurables

Height Weight Arm Length Hand Size 40-Yard Dash Bench Press Vertical Jump Broad Jump 20-Yard Shuttle 3-Cone Drill 60-Yard Shuttle
Height Weight Arm Length Hand Size 40-Yard Dash Bench Press Vertical Jump Broad Jump 20-Yard Shuttle 3-Cone Drill 60-Yard Shuttle
5'11 200 pounds 30 3/4" 9 1/4" 4.52 seconds 17 reps 36.5" 123" 3.88 seconds 6.69 seconds N/A

20-yard shuttle, vertical jump and 3-cone drill from Wisconsin’s Pro Day (courtesy of UW); all other measurements and statistics from the NFL Combine.

Strengths: Well built for the position. Extremely comfortable in press man coverage. Physical at the line of scrimmage, using his hands to disrupt the wide receiver’s route and timing. Has above average recovery speed and ability, which allows him to play trail technique if beaten off of the line in press. Anticipates double moves well, rarely out of position. Has experience as a punt returner, with a touchdown versus Michigan last season. Led the country in pass breakups.

Weaknesses: Showed the ability to catch the ball at the combine, but zero interceptions with plenty of opportunities has to be a concern at the next level. Can get over-aggressive, which leads to being grabby and getting defensive pass interference penalties. Will need to clean up his hands at the next level. A bit tight hipped, can get turned around on outside-in routes.

Summary: Nelson, who is currently recovering from a reported torn meniscus that occurred during a private workout, will get on the field early for whatever team drafts him due to his ability to play both outside, and in the slot. Nelson’s aggressiveness will serve him well on the inside, where he can be physical with smaller wide receivers. His return experience will also be valuable for teams who are looking to save a roster spot by not having a “return specialist”.

Projection: 3rd-4th Round