Can Jordy Nelson be a WR1?

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Published: July 8, 2013

Jordy Nelson FantasyJordy Nelson Fantasy 2013

It’s easy to forget about a player’s productive past when they suffer an injury, a la Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, DeMarco Murray, and Antonio Gates. This off-season one of those players is Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who is not only being looked over after missing some of the 2012 season, but has been lost in the limelight emanating from James Jones and Randall Cobb’s tremendous years.

Despite playing in the NFL since 2008, Nelson really only has two seasons as a wide receiver under his belt, although he was technically a wide receiver in his 2008 rookie season, he started just three games. The next two years, 2009 and 2010, were largely spent as a kick returner and punt returner. It wasn’t until 2011, Nelson’s breakout year, that he was featured solely as a wide receiver. In fact, Nelson finished second behind one Calvin Johnson in fantasy points among wide receivers, totaling 1,256 yards and 15 touchdowns (second to Megatron’s 16). Surprisingly enough, Nelson was targeted just 96 times but did lead Green Bay receivers in yards per catch at 15.2.

Some factors that helped Nelson thrive in 2011 included Randall Cobb taking over kick and punt return duties, James Jones was somewhat of an afterthought, and Donald Driver’s career was starting to wind down. A year later, of course, was the coming out party of Randall Cobb and James Jones, to which Jordy Nelson was not invited. Instead, the Kansas State alum missed four games and started in just 10 games while nursing hamstring and ankle injuries.

In spite of this injury induced hiatus, Nelson still managed a respectable line of 49 catches, 745 yards, and seven scores in 2012. That was good enough for 30th among wide receivers. A full season would have seen him tally 62 catches for 992 yards and eight big ones, which would have been 20th among wide receivers. I know, those aren’t WR1 numbers, but in one of his 12 games Nelson didn’t catch a single pass and in another game he had one catch for 10 yards, which skews the data a little bit.

Another positive note on Nelson’s abbreviated 2012 season is that he was sixth among receivers in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), which basically measures a player’s value of scoring and winning and is further explained here. Essentially, the point is that Nelson is clutch and makes plays when they count, as his eight red zone touchdowns in 2011 can attest to. At 6’3″, 217 lbs. Nelson is the biggest receiver the Packers have and arguably their biggest red zone threat, save for possibly tight end Jermichael “Butterfingers” Finley.

Another factor Jordy Nelson has going for him besides an off-season of recovery and a slate of good health is that Greg Jennings has departed and with him went the 62 targets he accounted for. Most of Jennings’ production came during the latter part of the season, which is the time frame during which Nelson was mainly warming the bench, so it makes sense that Nelson would pick up most of the slack. In addition, the Packers now have two rookies in Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin who are responsible for solidifying the run game. Meanwhile, they also have arguably the best quarterback in the game and one of the top wide receiving groups in the NFL. My money is on head coach Mike McCarthy relying a little more on his quarterback and wide receiver corps.

So, can Jordy Nelson reassert himself as a WR1? If he plays a full season, there’s no question he can. He’s already proved that.

While admitting that Jordy Nelson can be a WR1 in 2013, remember to keep an eye open for Gridiron Experts’ premium membership, coming soon!

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