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- Position: Cornerback (CB)
- Class: Senior (redshirt)
- College: Oregon State
- Ht/Wt: 5'10", 197 pounds
Steven Nelson is another one of those cornerbacks who win their battles on the merits of physicality and tracking the quarterback's eyes, because they aren't quite athletic enough to make up for mistakes. He's a very tough player, using his hands well to redirect routes, swat at the ball, and gain position near the sideline. Nelson's also active in run support, recognizing run plays and bubble screens very quickly and fighting through blocks to make a tackle. He's not a big player, but is capable of hitting pretty hard, and he's a pretty reliable tackler in the tackle box.
Nelson has tight hips, and he is on the slow side when transitioning out of a backpedal or planting and driving. He does a pretty good job of holding up on comebacks and hitch-and-go patterns that might otherwise get him burned, because he watches the route and quarterback to know when the ball is supposed to be coming. But he's still susceptible to giving up chunks of intermediate yards on those plays.
What has me hopeful about Nelson is that he's very good at the catch point. He tracks the ball well, can break up passes, and doesn't shy away from contact when the ball is coming. He's a player who competes for the pass, and that's the mentality you want from a corner.
While I'm a fan of Nelson's game and the way he tracks plays on the field, I'm not sure that his hips are fluid enough to play as a starting boundary cornerback. He might be best suited for playing as a slot corner or safety, where he can take better advantage of his physicality and not worry about being burned as much. I think he represents solid value around the late third or fourth round as a backup who contributes on special teams and grows into a starting role down the line.