ALAMEDA – There isn’t much to play for in a Raiders season that has started 1-8 with no guarantee that future wins will come.
Significant roster turnover is expected this offseason, with most veterans playing now not expected back.
The Raiders are keeping a close eye on their rookie class, and we’ll do the same. We’ll put the spotlight on one rookie each week as the season carries on and evaluate what they’ve progressed to this point and what strides must be made down the stretch.
This week we’re looking at...
Draft slot: No. 110 overall (Fourth round)
Stats: 3 tackles, 4 receptions allowed for 28 yards on 7 targets over three games (61 defensive snaps)
Raw tools: Nelson is strong than you might expect at his listed 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, with an ability to play receivers physical at the line of scrimmage. He can be a tight cover man and a solid tackler, and could be considered a fourth-round steal if he becomes the Raiders’ regular slot cornerback as expected.
Early returns: Nelson was inactive most of the season’s first half. The Raiders slow-played his recovery from surgery to repair a torn meniscus, an injury suffered during a pre-draft workout with the Detroit Lions. His draft stock took a hit, and sent him sliding down draft boards with teams uncertain about how he would rebound to knee surgery. He didn’t anything this spring, but worked his way back to practice and earned increased snaps over the past three weeks.
Where Nelson has improved: Well, his health is the biggest area of improvement. He’s finally 100-percent healthy, in football shape and well versed in coordinator Paul Guenther’s system, and can play free on Sundays. That’s a good sign for the Raiders, who hope he can develop into a defensive staple.
Nelson got a real chance to showcase his skills in last week’s loss to the L.A. Chargers, and played well in coverage and against the run.
“He has some quickness and size and strength to play the nickel position. I think he played 25, close to 30 snaps, something like that. Leon Hall’s snaps were down at the nickel position, but for his debut I thought he played pretty good. I was excited about it.”
What’s next: Nelson should continue taking snaps away from Hall in the slot, as the Raiders figure out what they have in the Wisconsin alum. This is a great opportunity for Nelson to play to his confidence level, which is always high.
The Raiders like tough, physical corners and Nelson must prove he falls in that category to give coaches confidence to make his 2019’s presumptive starter at slot corner.
Quotable: “He probably played the most snaps of the season last week. I thought he did a good job in there. We’ll continue to get him snaps and get him some experience in the slot.” – Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther