At first glance, Steven Nelson does not seem like the type of corner the Detroit Lions would be targeting. He is a prototypical Tampa-2 corner. He is shorter than the Lions existing corners as Darius Slay is 6’0 and Rashean Mathis is 6’1 in comparison to Nelson being 5’10. The Detroit Lions did bring him in for a pre-draft visit though, so I looked a bit deeper as to why he is on their radar.
Nelson is a very competitive, very smart, and very physical corner. He is aggressive in playing the run and he errors on the side of caution in the passing game, preferring to give cushion and allow underneath routes as opposed to getting beat deep. These are traits that you see from Teryl Austin’s defensive backs and likely the reason he is being looked at. So what makes Steven Nelson an NFL caliber corner?
Some of his strengths, which display why he would make it as a solid corner at the next level, are his focus and consistency. He loves to jam receivers at the line and displays good closing speed. He has good ball skills which is displayed by how many pass breakups he has had in his 2 year career at Oregon State. He is not afraid of bigger running backs and is a very good tackler for a corner.
Every player has weaknesses, reasons teams have to think twice about drafting him. Steven Nelson’s weaknesses are tied to his strengths. First and foremost, with an aggressive and physical player, you are always going to see penalties. Nelson was the second most penalized corner. He does not have fluid hips and he is poor in man coverage. His size is an issue and it shows in his game film.
Below is a table with his combine numbers. What it does not show is that he was not a top performer at any of the drills that matter for a corner.
|40 Yard Dash
||3 Cone Drill
||20 Yard Shuttle
The only drill that he was a top performer at was the bench press and corners are measured more by their speed, quickness, and vertical than they are strength. While his 4.49 40 yard dash was not horrible, it was rather slow for a corner, especially one with issues in man coverage.
Still though, Steven Nelson’s physicality can hide much of his shortcomings if he is coached will in the NFL. Austin, who is a master of positioning his players to highlight their strengths and hide their weaknesses, could use the aggressive and physical Nelson to throw off a quarterback’s timing with his receiver, causing for poorly thrown passes his way. His ball skills would be a welcomed addition to a team with secondary concerns. The big question for the Lions though is whether or not they are willing to give up the size they have at corner already with Mathis for a future with a physical 5’10 corner.