Feb 23, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Oregon State Beavers defensive back Steven Nelson catches a pass in a work out drill during the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The Bengals’ approach to this year’s draft will include bolstering several positions while possibly finding a couple of players who could function as starter’s from day one. With nine selections in this year’s draft, Cincinnati should have no problem rebuilding its depth after a year fraught with injuries.
One of those positions will undeniably be cornerback. The Bengals believe a team can never have enough quality cornerbacks, and after losing one of theirs this offseason (Terence Newman), finding yet another seems both logical and likely.
Although Cincinnati does have a certain affinity for selecting cornerbacks in the first round, with a deep class of corners this year, they won’t have to do so in 2015. If the Bengals do choose to wait until the middle to late rounds to select another cornerback, Cincinnati would do well to give Oregon State’s Steven Nelson strong consideration.
When the Bengals chose to move on from Terence Newman this offseason, they were also choosing to move on from a player who personified Cincinnati’s “bend, but don’t break” defensive style. At 36 years old, Newman was understandably losing some of his athleticism, but largely continued to be productive by keeping receivers in front of him and as a solid tackler. He was also strong against the run, which is important when defending in the AFC North.
Cincinnati likely chose to move on from Newman due to the presence of Dre Kirkpatrick (and possibly Darqueze Dennard). Yet, Kirkpatrick has had one consistent weakness to date, his ability to cover the double move.
When considering what the team is losing when moving on from Newman and what they are missing considering Dre Kirkpatrick’s weakness, Steven Nelson becomes an even better fit for Cincinnati.
Nelson is an aggressive and physical defender in the secondary. Like Newman, he keeps defenders in front of him and wraps up ball carriers quickly. In fact, as pointed out by Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson, Nelson did not have a missed tackle last season at Oregon State. This type of ability matches the Bengals’ “bend, but don’t break” approach to defense. More than that, Nelson’s willingness and ability to produce well against the run would be vital while playing in the AFC North.
One of the best aspects of Nelson’s game seems to be his ability to defend the double move. Nelson showed off this ability against both Jaelen Strong during the season and Sammie Coates at the Senior Bowl. The play against Strong is particularly impressive. Despite defending the double move well, Jaelen Strong uses his size and leaping ability to get to the ball first, yet Nelson has the presence of mind to time his strike well and knock the ball out of his hands once Strong brings the ball down in an attempt to secure the catch; it’s simply an impressive play all around.
If you haven’t yet, I strongly urge you to take a moment and watch some film of Steven Nelson (can be found via draftbreakdown.com). I’m rather certain after watching you will enjoy Nelson and will want him doning stripes in 2015.