Kansas City Chiefs Rookie Profile: Steven Nelson

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The Kansas City Chiefs selected cornerback Steven Nelson from Oregon State with their third-round compensatory pick, number 98 overall in this year’s NFL draft. Many fans may have been caught off guard when the Chiefs selected another corner with a top 100 pick after they had already used their first-round pick on cornerback Marcus Peters out of Washington. Despite the Peters pick, Nelson was still one of my favorite picks (if not THE favorite) of KC’s 2015 class. The 5-foot-10 corner may be “vertically challenged” but he possesses many qualities that I believe will make him successful in Kansas City.

I’m hoping to make this the first in several rookie profiles. So if you enjoy this look at Nelson and would like to see a similar profile for one of the other draft picks, please feel free make a recommendation in the comments below.

In this profile I’ll include some consensus strengths and weaknesses from Nelson’s scouting reports. I say consensus because if you read multiple scouting reports on a player, you often will see some discrepancies as different people often see different things when scouting a player. However, if the same observations are noted by multiple sources that I respect, that is worth noting. I’ll then end the profile with some personal observations of my own from watching Nelson’s game tape.

Let’s begin with what are viewed as Nelson’s strengths.


Aggressive Mindset

One of Steven Nelson’s best characteristics is the way he plays the game. There is no fear, no hesitation, no second guessing in his game. That competitive and aggressive style is apparent the second you turn on his tape.

CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler described Nelson this way in his 2015 Draft Guide (a must-have):

"extremely competitive and tries to get into the head of receivers with his confident and talkative attitude…carries himself like he’s the best player on the field and driven to be better"

Mike Loyko of nepatriotsdraft.com puts out one of my favorite draft guides, and he had a similar description of Nelson in his 2015 guide:

"Feisty, aggressive, and tenacious cornerback. Ultra-competitive."

Consistently Contests Catches

This is a byproduct of his aggressive style of play. Nelson is constantly getting his hands on passes and even if he can’t get a hand on it before the wide receiver does he’s still focused enough to continue to contest the catch before the wideout can complete the catch.

From Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com Draft Profile:

"Displays closing burst and ball skills to consistently contest passes (24 passes defensed over last two seasons)."

From Mike Loyko’s 2015 Draft Guide:

"Consistently hostile at the catch point. Contests the majority of throws and is adept at slashing the hands or reaching through the WR to break up passes."

Press Coverage

While everyone believes that Nelson was drafted to play primarily as a nickel corner because of his short stature, he does possess the strength and technique to jam wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and knock them off their routes. While he wouldn’t be an ideal outside corner in the Chiefs press man coverage system, his ability to jam receivers would allow him to fill in on the outside if needed.

Optimum Scouting’s 2015 Draft Guide graded out Nelson’s press coverage abilities at a 7/10. While a seven isn’t elite, there were only four other corners in their top twenty cornerback prospects that had a higher press coverage grade (one of those being first-round pick Marcus Peters).

From Bleacher Report’s Draft Profile:

"He’s strong enough to be a factor jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage"

From Mike Loyko’s 2015 Draft Guide:

"Attacks receivers at the line and has the strength to disrupt route integrity."

Strong In Run Support

One thing that makes Steven Nelson unique is his strength in run support. There are many corners in the NFL that are strong in run support, and there are many short corners that make a living playing as a nickel corner in the sub package. However, there aren’t a ton of short nickel corners that excel in run support. With three wide receiver sets becoming the norm in today’s pass-happy NFL, the sub package is starting to become the new base defense. So having a nickel corner that isn’t a liability against the run is a real advantage.

From Mike Loyko’s 2015 Draft Guide:

"Over the last two seasons Nelson has piled up 122 tackles showing a willingness to get his nose dirty. He plays with great leverage in run support and breaks down to tackle in space. Delivers more power at the point of attack than his frame would indicate."

From Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com Draft Profile:

"Won’t give an inch when big running backs are bearing down on him around the corner. Wraps up and finishes as tackler."

While I’m on the record as being a big fan of Steven Nelson, he’s not without his flaws. Now let’s look at what are considered his weaknesses.

Next: Click Here For Steven Nelson's Weaknesses