While Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, and Hunter Renfrow appear to have staked their claim to a roster spot, questions still remain about who may lock in the fourth spot.
Similar to how Brown, Williams, and Renfrow are new to the team, JJ Nelson also finds himself in the silver and black for the first time.
JJ Nelson spent four years with the Arizona Cardinals, in which he racked up 1,439 yards, 81 receptions, and 10 touchdowns. Those numbers are correct, meaning Nelson averaged 17.8 yards per catch, an average that would have placed him tied for third in the NFL last season.
Not only does Nelson have a ridiculous yards per catch average, he also has wheels. At the NFL Combine, Nelson ran a 4.24 40-yard dash. At the time, 4.24 was less than a tenth of a second slower than the combine record. Nelson’s time is also about a hundredth of a second faster than Tyreek Hill’s.
Nelson clearly can use his speed to establish himself as a deep threat. Not only can a deep route result in huge plays, but it can also drag defensive backs upfield opening up space to work with shorter routes.
As the league becomes more and more focused on building offensive juggernauts, the need for speed continues to increase as well. JJ Nelson has the fastest 40-yard dash time amongst his fellow receivers, placing Tyrell Williams as the second fastest. Tyrell Williams is a speedy receiver able to create space deep (16.3 yards per catch). The most significant difference between Williams and Nelson is their height. Williams comparatively towers over Nelson, as Williams stands at 6’4” compared to Nelson’s 5’11”.
While Nelson taking targets away from Brown and Williams may seem unlikely to some, all Nelson needs is a chance.
Nelson plays with the intensity of a team’s WR1. Not only is he fast, Nelson is shifty and runs clean, narrow routes. He boasts above average hands as well.
JJ Nelson is not just a “go” route guy. He is fully capable of running more complicated routes and boosting his impressive yards per catch average after the catch.
It may seem difficult to find a spot for Nelson. However, the more he grows in the Raiders’ organization, the more difficult it will become to keep him out.
At the time of Nelson’s signing, many may have been disappointed, which is fair. Nevertheless, do your research, watch some JJ Nelson film, and be surprised with how impressive JJ Nelson appears.