Why? Here are a few reasons:
1. James Jones and Koren Robinson. Both are decent receivers but both are not future starters. While Jones had a good rookie season with 47 catches for 676 yards, his production tailed off drastically near the end of the season and playoffs.
Maybe Jones hit the proverbial rookie 'wall.' But the fact is that he only had four catches in the team's final four regular season games and three catches in two playoff games, and zero touchdowns. A California native, Jones openly admits his dislike for cold weather and the fact is he struggled in cold-weather games in December and January last season may not be a coincidence.
The Packers need a receiver who can deal with the weather, and Nelson will get that opportunity. He played football in Kansas, so he knows all about cold weather, and already appears to have a tougher mindset than Jones.
Robinson is a good possession receiver, but he has had knee issues. It is quite possible that his knee is still bothering him, which could prevent him from playing significantly the rest of his football career. If Robinson still struggles with knee issues, he may be on the verge of getting released this year in training camp, which is another likely reason why Thompson went out and picked up Nelson.
2. Donald Driver. The three-time Pro Bowl receiver probably can play at a high level for another two or three seasons - maybe. The fact is Driver is entering his 10th season with the Packers and, bless his heart and will to succeed, his career headed more toward the downward cycle than up. He's a great receiver but simply can't be great forever.
3. Offensive formations. More and more last season, we saw the Packers line up in five-wide receiver sets with success. Don't look for Mike McCarthy to change anything this year just because Aaron Rodgers is at quarterback. In fact, more and more teams in the NFL are using 5-wide formations, so Nelson should be able to step in and help the team gain yards and score points right away off that formation and other multiple receiver sets.
4. Potential. Nelson has all the talent to be a very good receiver for a long time, much like Driver. If Friday's practice was any indication of what this guy can do, Packers fans will be very pleased with Nelson for a long time to come.
Nelson seems to be fearless at catching the ball in a crowd, much like Driver, and already carries himself with a quiet confidence. He is a big target with great hands, speed and attitude. What more do you want in a football player?
Nelson proved at Kansas State that he can catch passes and score touchdowns. I have a feeling he will be doing more of the same with the Green Bay Packers for years to come.