by Ray Kuhn
Is Jordy Nelson done? That is the question fantasy owners are asking themselves about the 33-year old wide receiver, and right now we don’t have a clear answer.
Nelson missed the 2015 season with a knee injury, but he didn’t miss a beat upon his return in 2016 catching 97 passes for 1,257 yards while teaming up with Aaron Rodgers and re-establishing himself as an early round draft pick. That brings us to 2017, which was just a complete and utter disappointment.
In Nelson’s defense he did appear in 15 games, so I wouldn’t chalk it up to a health issue. Based on the fact that Nelson was likely a WR1, owners were left with a big hole to fill and early round pick that was a bust. Before we unfairly bash Nelson, let’s take a closer look. He caught 53 passes, so it’s not like he completely vanished from Green Bay’s offense, but it was his worst performance since appearing in 12 games in 2012 when he caught 49 balls. That year Nelson gained 745 yards through air, but in 2017 it dropped down to 482 yards.
The 9.1 yards per reception he averaged last season were by far the worst total of his career, previously 11.1 in his rookie season, and it’s only fair that questions would be raised about what we can expect from him moving forward. If we are looking for a positive, it is the fact that Nelson did catch six touchdown passes so he hasn’t lost his nose for the end zone.
To this point we have left out the biggest piece of the puzzle. Last season Aaron Rodgers was sidelined for the majority of the season and the Green Bay offense was a disaster. Playing with Brett Hundley under center didn’t exactly do Nelson, or his Packers’ teammates, any favors.
Rodgers played in six full games and Nelson suited up in five of them. In those five games Nelson caught 22 passes for 258 yards. That still isn’t the production we became accustomed to, but over 16 games, it’s a pretty solid body of work. You can do worse than 66 catches for 774 yards from your WR3 or Flex option, and that is the current price. Let’s also note that all six of Nelson’s touchdown passes came from Rodgers.
This season Nelson won’t be catching passes from Rodgers. Instead he will be teaming up with Derek Carr in Oakland. While Car is not at Rodgers’ level, he still is a talented quarterback with Pro Bowl potential, and is certainly a better option than Hundley was.
Since Green Bay let Nelson go after the worst season of his career, it would be natural to think they know something we don’t and downgrade him for that reason. At the same time, there isn’t enough here for me to completely write him off either.
With an ADP of 82.5 Nelson is going in the seventh or eighth round, and it almost feels weird to see him dropping that far. At that price, how can you not roll the dice? It will be intriguing to see what he can do with Carr under center and defenses focused on his counterpart across the field, Amari Cooper.
Once you get past the first few rounds of the draft you are left with question marks, so why not gamble on a perennial Pro-Bowler? When you won’t have to rely on him to be an every week starter, the case for it becomes even more compelling.