Yes, Virginia; J.J. Nelson is a fast man. Ask the special teams units that he torched for four touchdown returns and an average of 38.3 return yards last season. Or you can ask the guys running the stop watch at the NFL Combine.
J.J. Nelson can FLY! UAB Blazers receiver runs an unofficial 4.29 in the 40, fastest time at the combine so far.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 21, 2015
No one that has watched him during C-USA play or have studied him are surprised at this. So yes, ESPN, we know Nelson can fly. But thanks for the heads up.
Speed, speed and more speed. "Sprinter speed", as it's described on his player bio on the UAB football page. Get him on the field returning kicks, and he can break a game wide open. His speed can also help him develop into a occasional deep option for quarterbacks if needed.
Of course, the NFL is much, much different than the college game, and one of Nelson's challenges is adjusting to the pace of play that exists in the pros. He's also only 156 pounds (and 5'11"), which is flat out skinny, so he definitely has some height but use some time in the gym to get himself bulked up. Speed is obviously good if you're a WR, but if you don't have the strength and build to keep yourself moving when you're wrapped up and looking to get some extra yardage, speed doesn't really help. Experts have also noted that his route running and adjustment leaves something to be desired.
I doubt Nelson will see a lot of time as a true wide receiver in the NFL (he's not going to end up like fellow C-USA alum T.Y. Hilton, for instance), but his speed, as I mentioned in an earlier article, could see him used in a Devin Hester-esque return specialist role. Nelson may not hear his name called in Chicago this spring, but I'd be stunned if he isn't a free agent signing at the absolute worst.