I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can. Find all the profiles here.
Steven Nelson, CB, Oregon State - 5'10, 197 - Senior - 4.49 40
As we continue down the ranks at cornerback, we are reminded how important the position is every year, and how deep the draft will go to sift through the many prospects at this particular skill set. If the league has truly become a passing league (it has) and has truly transitioned into a sport where there are almost no fullbacks in exchange for 3rd WR (it has), then we better get as many guys who can cover all of these receivers. The idea that you have 2 "starting" corners are you are set is absurd. The Super Bowl itself was decided when both teams started to routinely attack the opposition's 3rd and even 4th corners. With Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis on the field, they were mostly spectators as each QB knew enough to look elsewhere. Where is that? Deep on the roster as your 3rd target goes against their 3rd corner.
That is why we want to give you a few more players who may not necessarily be "Top 10" corners, but still are easily Top 100 players in this draft.
That brings us to Steven Nelson from Oregon State. Nelson played 2 years at the college of the Sequoias before transferring to OSU for 2013 and 2014. To study his work for the Beavers, we looked carefully at his game against Arizona State, USC, and Stanford.
What I liked: When shopping for this very important position, we are looking specifically for mentality. We want a player who is competitive, confident, and most notably, not bothered by what just happened. Nelson gets A+ grades in pretty much all of these categories. He is exceptional across the board with his level of battle as Oregon State would put him head to head with Jaelen Strong or Nelson Agholor and let him compete all evening with 2 very physical receivers. Oregon State likes to play man, but in just about any coverage, it is clear that Nelson has some very good physical traits with great straight line speed and solid strength where he will not be overpowered. He drives on the ball very well and also has very strong ball skills where he breaks up a high number of passes. He also uses his body to force receivers out and to leverage them against the sideline to make his job easier. He is a very physical receiver who also seems to run his secondary quite a bit and looks really smart when it comes to figuring out how the offense is trying to attack.
What I did not like: You do wish he could stick with his man a bit tighter underneath. He almost cheats back because he is going to err on the side of the short pass rather than getting beat over the top. This, combined with average change of direction led to players attacking him repeatedly underneath. We see this constantly in the NFL, but just keep in mind that this is the style he plays because those hips might not be as fluid as you might see from some of the more highly-ranked prospects. He also was beaten in the air a few times - as you would expect with a 5'10 corner. There are plenty of places in the league for smaller corners, but the one thing they will never overcome is a jump ball with a 6'4 skywalker. He was on the scene for a USC hail mary before halftime where he was but a close proximity spectator as the ball was brought down by a USC receiver.
Summary: Nelson is the type of guy that you want on your team. He has plenty of Orlando Scandrick qualities about him and if I could fill my secondary with guys who compete like Scandrick, I would be a happy man. He is that guy. The question now becomes how much you want to pay for a guy with a great mentality, but has limitations when it comes to size and even quickness. He is good in those categories, but not great. He will, however, quickly become a leader on his team with his junk yard dog spirit and the idea that he is here all day to compete with the best you have to throw at him. It is a strong consideration at the end of round 2, and if you can get him in the 3rd round, you would cut to a camera shot of your war-room celebrating you feeling like you just made your draft. You want him, not how much are you willing to pay?