Breakdown: Chiefs Select Steven Nelson

Everything you need to know about the Kansas City Chiefs’ third-round selection of cornerback Steven Nelson out of Oregon State from Scout's college and pro football experts.

Instant Analysis from Scout's Jamie Newberg:

Steven Nelson’s luggage has been put to good use since the two-sport star left Northside High in Warner Robins, Ga. His first port of call was to Northern California, where he was a member of the College of the Sequoias 4x100 relay team, in addition to earning All-State honors during his two seasons as a left cornerback. He finished his junior college career with 50 tackles, five interceptions and 10 pass breakups during the 2011-12 campaigns.

Coach Mike Riley’s top recruit, Nelson took over left cornerback duties for the final nine games on the 2013 schedule, having played the first four contests as a nickel back. He finished his first OSU season with 62 tackles, as the All-Pac 12 Conference selection intercepted six passes and deflected eight others. The full-time starter at left cornerback as a senior, Nelson delivered 60 tackles with two tackles-for-loss, eight more pass deflections and a pair of interceptions for his senior year in 2014.

Nelson displays safety-like height and very good quickness for his position. He can play a variety of roles in the secondary, but is best when allowed to perform in press coverage. He has the hand strength to reroute receivers at the line and will not hesitate to slip through trash to make plays in run force. He is a strong athlete who displays nice short-area quickness and agility. He maintains balance changing direction and displays quickness through transition.

Against plays in front of him, Nelson is quick to react, taking good angles to close on the ball. He is very effective in press coverage but struggles some working in man coverage, as his hips are tight, evident when he takes false steps in transition. Also, he seems to lose angle concepts when not playing inside the box and is slow to recover when a receiver gets behind him. He does a better job of anticipating the quarterback’s moves when facing the backfield, but will struggle to locate the ball with his back turned.

Nelson has very good ability to break on the ball vs. plays in front of him. He just needs to do a better job of anticipating the quarterback when working the deep zone. He shows urgency closing on the ball in man coverage, but will hesitate some playing in the zone (when in the zone, for some reason he rounds some angles to the ball after planting). He has the leaping ability and natural hands to come up with the big interception and uses his reach to work around the receiver in attempts to cleanly break up the pass.

Nelson explodes off the snap and can stay stride for stride with the receivers working underneath, as he possesses the loose hips needed to quickly change direction and close on the ball in deep patterns. He has very good acceleration when closing on plays in front of him and does a nice job of elevating for the ball. He is aggressive combating for the pass at its high point and uses his body well to position and ride up the receiver to get to the pass. He also has the body control to make proper adjustments in attempts to get to the ball in flight.

Evident by his 13 interceptions and 26 pass deflections as a collegian, Nelson is a natural hands catcher who secures the ball well before running with it. He does a nice job of catching the ball away from the body’s frame. His sudden burst with the sphere in his hands and experience on special teams could see him handle return duties at the next level. He is able to make the tough catch in traffic and will not hesitate to compete for the pigskin in a crowd. He uses his hands well to keep blockers away from his chest when trying to slip blocks working in trash.

Nelson is the type that puts full force behind his hits. His strength (19 reps in the 225-pound bench press test at the 2015 Combine) makes him more like that of a cover-two linebacker when working in the box. He has the speed and rip moves to slip off the blocker’s shoulder and displays the closing burst to pursue when he penetrates the backfield. His power and hand usage let him take on and play off isolated blocks well.

The senior is effective at taking angles to make plays along the perimeter and shows good aggression taking on combo blocks, making him effective in filling the alleys. When he hits the ball carrier, he will generally bring his opponent down with the initial tackle.

Nelson is a very effective tackler when he keeps plays in front of him. He stays low in his pads and will not hesitate to lower his head and drive with force to rock ball carriers back on their heels. He is a good “thud” type who will generally win the battle when he tries to wrestle his opponent down. He knows how to make adjustments to break down and fit when playing in the open and shows good desire to make the play.

Steven Nelson Scouting Combine measurables


5-10/197 (4.49 forty)
30 5/8-inch arm length
9 1/4-inch hands
19-reps bench 34 1/2-inch vertical jump
9-foot-7 broad jump
6.88 3-cone drill (right calf strain)
4.07 20-yard shuttle
11.52 60-yard shuttle


Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.



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