Nelson solidified his position as one of the top safeties available in the draft, along with LSU's LaRon Landry and Texas' Michael Griffin, earlier this month when he raced through drills at the University of Florida's Pro Day. The Packers, who are seeking depth, or a possible starter, to compete against Marquand Manuel and Nick Collins at safety this season, may snag Nelson if he's available when it is Green Bay's turn to pick 16th overall.
At Florida's Pro Day on March 7, Nelson was clocked between 4.22 seconds and just under 4.3 seconds by NFL scouts in the 40-yard dash, according to Scout.com. After an NFL Combine in Indianapolis where Nelson's 40 time was in the 4.4 to 4.5 range on spongy artificial turf, he likely climbed a few spots on many draft boards. Nelson also had a 35-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-6 broad jump, ran 4.15 seconds in the short shuttle and 6.70 seconds in the three-cone drill at the Pro Day.
That sub-4.3 40, however, was all the statement Nelson needed to make, which might have him landing in Green Bay on draft day.
Here is further analysis on Nelson from Scout.com draft experts:
NFL Comparison - Brian Dawkins, Philadelphia
Overview - The definition of a playmaker, Nelson was one of the best defenders in the college ranks last season. Great deep speed, showing excellent ability to play center field and cover from sideline-to-sideline. Really jumps out at you on film. Good hands. Isn't afraid to sacrifice his body, but he's a bit lighter than ideal. Very good instincts and is the best pure cover safety in the class.
Against the Pass - Really excels in this area. Flies around and has good recognition skills. Catches the ball like a receiver at its highest point and with his hands. Good man-to-man ability and can cover a ton of ground. Gets deep in a hurry and has good hips. Reads the quarterback well and makes very few mistakes in coverage. Plays the ball and goes up for it like he owns it.
Against the Run - Can hit. Despite his lack of elite size, Nelson smacks ballcarriers without hesitation. Takes on blockers, but blows them up instead of trying to stack and shed. Tackles sideline-to-sideline and comes up immediately from his spot. Doesn't wrap up enough, which leads to missed tackles. Is only adequate in this area.
Roster Impact for Packers - Has the talent to start immediately in place of Manuel or Collins. Suited to play free safety, which Collins plays. If Manuel struggles in training camp, the Packers could line Nelson up at free safety and move Collins to strong safety.
Draft Projection - Like LaRon Landry, Nelson has the talent to go as high as 10th overall, but because safeties tend to drop a bit, it's hard to predict where he'll end up. He's definitely a first round pick – the only question in where, so he might be available at 16 for the Packers. Nelson also is scheduled for pre-draft visits with Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Dallas, Atlanta and San Diego.
Final Analysis - Nelson has all the tools to be a Pro Bowl free safety at the next level. Outside of ideal size, he has it all and plays with the fire that teammates gravitate towards. He and Landry will be the first safeties off the board and whoever selects him will get a great playmaker for their defense.