Kansas State wide receiver Jordy Nelson had a formal interview with the Colts staff at the Combine.
Even though he was the second-most productive receiver in all of Division I football in 2007, he doesn't get the same press and attention that fellow prospects DeShaun Jackson, Limas Sweed, and Malcolm Kelly because he isn't as flashy. He's not projected as a first-round prospect despite the fact that he registered 122 receptions for 1,606 yards and 11 touchdowns and was a finalist for the Biletnikoff award, which is given to the nation's best receiver.
More quick than fast, Nelson is not considered to be a deep threat and is projected to be more of a possession receiver at the NFL level.
But he still averaged 13.2 yards per reception, which led the team even though he also had 65 more receptions and 1,001 more yards than the second-ranked receiver on the Wildcats roster.
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Kansas State was definitely a pass-heavy team last season, with 510 pass attempts to 351 rush attempts, but Nelson's dominance of every relevant receiving statistic — he also added two passing touchdowns and two punt return touchdowns — shows that his hard work and determination have paid off in the absence of jaw-dropping athleticism.
Given his work ethic and focus on the field, he actually compares favorably to Fred Biletnikoff, the player for whom the award that Nelson was up for is named.
Biletnikoff also wasn't blessed with physical acumen, but worked hard to be the best receiver he could be. Where the two men differ greatly, however, is in terms of craft.
Through practice and precision, Biletnikoff became one of the best route runners in the history of the league.
Nelson, who came to Kansas State as a defensive back, is still learning on the job. He does not run bad routes, but he certainly could work on that aspect of his game at the next level. He'ss also not a polished blocker and needs to work on his technique.
And, undoubtedly, one the of the reasons that scouts and members of the media are not singing Nelson's praises is that his upside is fairly limited.
While it is true that he has put in considerable hours and effort to make himself into the highly productive player that he is today, it's unknown whether he still has more work to do and, more to the point, how much of a difference the additional labor will make at the next level.
Even in a competitive conference such as the Big 12, a player that has a great deal of determination and desire can overcome a lack of elite athleticism simply by wanting it more than the man across from him.
At the NFL level, where everyone is a tremendous athlete and everyone is a professional, it is difficult to want to win and succeed more than your opponent, at least by a wide enough margin to overcome such a disparity in athletic ability.
All that having been said, it's not as though Nelson is completely devoid of any natural talent — he still ran a 4.51 40 at the Combine, which is very respectable for a man that is nearly 6 feet, 3 inches and weighs 217 pounds, he scored well in the vertical jump and broad jump, and, ultimately, a player doesn't put up the kinds of numbers that he did against the kind of competition he faced without being physically gifted.
As a matter of fact, he was athletic enough to return two punts for touchdowns last season ... on only five attempts for 264 yards, which averages out to nearly 53 yards per return.He may not have stopwatch speed, but he certainly seems to have physical attributes that translate well to the field.
Although NFL teams have begun to draft players more on upside and potential in recent years, most are not going to overlook the obvious "sure thing" aspects of a prospect like Jordy Nelson and he may be gone by the time Indianapolis chooses in the second round.
But if he is available at 59th overall, he may well be the highest-rated player on Bill Polian's big board and the Colts would be wise to pull the trigger.
After all, if he ends up just being a solid possession receiver with an outstanding work ethic, Indianapolis could certainly use a player like that in the post-Marvin Harrison era.