At 5-feet-10 inches tall and 160 pounds, wide receiver J.J. Nelson is the smallest player on the Cardinals roster. Most people passing by J.J. on the street would probably ignore him, never even considering that he is a professional football player, and a darn good one at that.
Nelson may be tiny in size, but he is now the Cardinals' biggest threat to make the big play. With David Johnson out for an extended period of time because of injury and John Brown's status uncertain seemingly every week, Nelson has become the player the Cardinals count on
the most for explosive plays.
His 45-yard touchdown catch last week against Indianapolis wasn't the first time he took the top off the defense. Nelson had an 80-yard touchdown against Seattle last season, and a 64-yarder against the Bengals two years ago, just to mention just a couple. With nine touchdowns in his last 11 games, Nelson is hardly being ignored by NFL defenses and fantasy football owners.
While Nelson's big play ability has been consistent, his reliability as a pass catcher from "down-to-down" has not. Nelson has had some dropped balls, and his lack of size makes it hard for him to beat man-to-man press coverage. While the Cardinals would love for him to improve in those areas, they're happy with the flare he brings to the offense. He's been everything the Cardinals hoped he would be as a fifth-round draft pick.
At the NFL Scouting combine, Nelson ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at 4.28 second. His lightning speed at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he returned four kickoffs for touchdowns, is what caught the eye of Cardinals scouts. What's interesting is that when Nelson left UAB, the entire program went with him, so to speak. UAB dropped football shortly after Nelson's final season, when the school decided that upgrading athletic facilities and paying operating expenses were too costly. Three years later, UAB has resumed playing football, and its reemergence coincides with Nelson's star being on the rise. Whether it's in the world of fantasy football, or on the actual football field, J.J. Nelson can't be ignored.