Each player on draft day is at a different stage in their development. Some players come in and can play right away. Others take time to develop and for the game to slow down for them. Anthony Nelson finished with a strong season in 2021 as a rotational player and could really come into his own in 2022.
Entering The League
Coming out of Iowa the 6’7″, 271-pounder was graded by NFL analysts as a 6.20. This grade is assigned to prospects that will eventually be an average starter. Carving themselves out a role. Interestingly enough NFL analyst Lance Zierlein compared Nelson to 2019 teammate and returning player Carl Nassib. Eventually, the Buccaneers selected Nelson with the fifth pick in the fourth round.
Nelson started in sub packages in 2019 and special teams. Seeing the field sparingly he was in on 13.3 percent of defensive snaps racking up eight tackles. Come the next seasons training camp coaches began to see him evolve. Additionally, with the loss of Carl Nassib, Nelson moved up on the depth chart. He rewarded the team with solid production. Ultimately finishing the season with 30.3% of defensive snaps, more than doubling his tackles, and recording his first sack.
The 2021 season Nelson jumped up in his production. With almost the same share of snaps (31.7 percent) he increased in tackles and went from one to five sacks for the season. Add in 14 quarterback pressures and four hurries he came into his own. Simultaneously, his missed tackle percentage went from 16.7 percent in 2020 to 12.5 precent in 2021. Impressive for sure.
Reports from camp started to trickle out about Nelson rather early. With some reports indicating the strong showing and solid technique. He and Cam Gill were getting noticed as their competition heated up behind Shaquil Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Eventually, rolling into week one of the preseason both were set to play. Nelson showed up notching two tackles, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hit, and a sack.
Outlook And Final Thought
If this trend continues he will contribute greatly rotating in for Barrett. Unfortunately, the only thing that may hold him back from really breaking out will be his snap count. He’s still behind an established player and a first round pick. Despite that outlook on playing time he’ll have ample opportunity to improve his stats from last year and I for one absolutely think he will.
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