With the news of second-year cornerback Gareon Conley’s injury, the Raiders will examine all internal options. Luckily, they inked a myriad of corners and will expect one to step up in Conley’s absence. One possible replacement, rookie Nick Nelson could figure into the interim. Nelson appears fully healed from his knee issue. With that said, the Raiders will examine what they have in Nelson. FPC Raiders writers Ray Aspuria, Grant Richards, and Terrance Biggs discuss the rookie and what he could bring to the table.
When you look at the PUP list Nick Nelson does not appear. That means he is healthy. In broad terms, what do you expect from him in 2018?
To get snaps both on the boundary and in the slot on nickel and sub-packages. If it were not for a knee injury, Nelson would have gone higher in the draft. He features physical press ability that allows him to be a nuisance to offenses. While his lack of interceptions is suspect on the surface, he does get his mitts on the ball. Considering how fluid the Raiders depth chart is at CB, Nelson is afforded a chance to earn snaps.
As a fan of Michigan football, I was able to watch Nick Nelson and the Wisconsin Badgers play in a significant game. During the game, I remember noting that when he was on the field, everyone knew. When the whistle blew at the end of every play, Nelson was near the ball. Nick Nelson returned a kick for a touchdown as well as had a potential interception slip through his fingers in the red zone. Nelson had 122 tackles in his college career but did not record an interception. What we can take from this is that while Nelson may not have the best hands, he has notable speed and certainly knows how to tackle. I expect Gruden to fall in love with Nelson’s style of play and could see him starting opposite of Gareon Conley (provided they both stay healthy).
During Conley’s time healing, Nelson should see a few reps and the Raiders could judge from that. Granted, he does possess a trait that Paul Guenther loves from his corners: tackling. While coverage remains the top priority, tackling, especially in space stops a six-yard screen from turning into a 35-yard chunk play. Nelson breaks down and gets in prime position. If his hands evolve with the rest of his game, the Raiders will employ another sound corner.