High-Variance Players: WR Jordy Nelson - Footballguys

The Footballguys staff discusses the high side and low side of Jordy Nelson

When August rolls around, the fantasy football community usually reaches a consensus on most players. Jordy Nelson isn't one of those players. While he's averaging somewhere around WR46, he has been ranked between 31 and unranked at his position. What are your thoughts on him? Is he underrated or overrated? Or neither?

Devin Knotts: The move to Oakland is a disappointing one. If Nelson had remained in Green Bay and was this value he would be a steal. Even moving to Oakland he is being unfairly underrated due to last season.

Let's face it, Nelson had a year to forget last season and it is easy to look at it on the surface and say he is an aging receiver who no longer has the separation that he once had. That may be true, however, he is still a tremendous touchdown threat every time he steps on the field. In Jordy's six games with Aaron Rodgers, he scored six touchdowns. With Brett Hundley on the field, Jordy failed to score a touchdown, so while Derek Carr is not Aaron Rodgers he is a significant upgrade compared to Hundley who was atrocious last season. I expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 750 yards and 8 touchdowns for Jordy this season which should have him paying off his current draft position.

Daniel Simpkins: I think the WR46 price is fair, but I would still rather take higher upside shots at the position around or after where he is going, such as Kenny Golladay, Josh Doctson, D.J. Moore, or Mike Williams. The Raiders offense will be focused on the run, which makes Nelson not as appealing to me.

Jason Wood: Why do we obsess about older players who have clearly hit the downside of their careers? Nelson was amazing for a lot of years, but those times are done. Green Bay let him go, and that speaks volumes. Oakland -- aka the circus of the NFL -- are the ones who added him. That also speaks volumes. Hard pass.

Matt Waldman: Why do we obsess over stats without context and make definitive statements about players who played with a tattered offensive line and a young quarterback who couldn't make more than one good read before he had to leave the pocket? Nelson was a top-10 fantasy producer before Aaron Rodgers got hurt.

After Rodgers got hurt, Brett Hundley couldn't create without an offensive line the way Rodgers did and it forced the Packers to use Nelson far more often as a quick-hitting receiver on shorter routes. Beforehand, Nelson earned separation on deep routes against the likes of Darius Slay and Tre Waynes.

Aaron Rodgers was ticked off that the Packers let Nelson go, which says a lot. Jon Gruden has had a lot of success with aging veteran receivers who delivered top fantasy production, including Irving Fryar, Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, Joey Galloway, and Antonio Bryant. While doing this, Gruden's offenses often had good run-pass balance.

I'm willing to go against the grain and invest in the Raiders offense.

Jason Wood: Good luck with that.

Will Grant: I think the biggest risk with thinking that Nelson will bounce back in Oakland is that he's switching from #1 wide receiver to a #2. In Green Bay, with Rodgers under center, Nelson was the guy he looked to. As Devin and Matt pointed out, Nelson was on pace for a great season until Rodgers got hurt and that was that.

In Oakland, David Carr is a big upgrade, but so is the competition. Gruden has already stated he wants Amari Cooper to have a bigger role, meaning Nelson will be the No. 2 guy - competing with Martavis Bryant and Jared Cook for touches each week. That's going to severely limit Nelson's upside. He's also on a new team, with a new offense and new focus. We've seen plenty of veteran wide receivers change teams and disappear - and Nelson feels like a candidate for that to happen in Oakland. I think he has value at WR46, I think he's overvalued at that point. I'd put him somewhere in the mid to late 50s - in the range with Tyler Lockett like we talked about in the other thread.

Chad Parsons: While I am not a fan of Amari Cooper's weight updates this offseason, I still view Cooper has the clear favorite to return value from Oakland's passing game. Jordy Nelson looked done last year and with the Raiders likely a middling passing attack, the historical finish for the No.2 receiver (read: Jordy Nelson) would be in the WR50-60 zone. Without any projected upside, pass on Nelson in 2018.

Andy Hicks: I think Jason has it spot on. It is hard to get excited about a former great receiver who has been moved on from his original club. At age 33 and for a receiver that relied on his speed to beat his defenders, he also now has to do it without Aaron Rodgers this season. He doesn’t become terrible overnight, but the career arc is trending downwards slowly/rapidly. His current price is fair, but he has an awfully good chance of failing badly at this stage of his career.

Phil Alexander: In general, I'm buying Oakland's offensive pieces at their depressed ADPs, but Nelson is an exception despite reports he's excelling early in camp. Matt made a terrific case for Nelson, but the top-10 wide receiver splits with Rodgers he's referring to were almost entirely touchdown dependent. He had zero games with more than 75 receiving yards with Rodgers and zero games with more than 35 yards with Hundley at quarterback. By contrast, Davante Adams was able to maintain top-20 fantasy production once Hundley took over.

Whatever you think about Oakland's prospects of an offensive bounce back, they won't be visiting their opponent's red zone as frequently as Green Bay did with Rodgers. And it's far from guaranteed Nelson instantly earns Carr's trust when the team gets within striking distance -- something he certainly had with Rodgers. Michael Crabtree's 2017 numbers (WR31) represent the top of Nelson's range of possible outcomes with the Raiders, which means in a best-case scenario, he's currently being drafted in the appropriate tier. There is little-to-no profit potential in investing in Nelson at his ADP.

Dan Hindery: I had been skeptical all summer of Oakland's offensive prospects this season and completely avoiding Jordy Nelson in best ball drafts. However, I am starting to warm up to Matt Waldman's view of things, at least as far as Jordy Nelson is concerned. Is it that hard to see Nelson stepping into Michael Crabtree's role and putting up similar numbers (eight or more touchdowns every season in Oakland)? Amari Cooper has been a non-factor in the red zone and Martavis Bryant is a wild card. Derek Carr is a solid quarterback and is willing to try to make the type of back-shoulder throws that Nelson excels at hauling in. Nelson is a solid value as a fantasy WR4.

Matt Waldman: What's interesting to me is that Nelson may actually be faster than Crabtree at this point of their careers and he's every bit as physical of a receiver.

Now to Phil's point, he's correct that touchdowns were a factor last year. However, the context for touchdowns is usage and scheme and not always ability. If we're talking about Brandin Cooks and his lack of red zone production with two different teams and pairing that with his difficulty winning the ball against physical coverage, that's a good context.

However, we're talking about Nelson moving to his first new team since entering the NFL and getting a new offensive line that can protect the quarterback. So in this instance, the stat splits don't have a ton of meaning -- especially when last year's Packers offense was also a new situation in terms of personnel, talent level, and scheme usage surrounding Nelson.

My greatest concern with Nelson is usage. Will he be platooned as the No. 3 receiver and not see as many snaps as Martavis Bryant? Or will he be used inside and outside and it's Bryant who leaves the field in two-receiver sets? If it's the former, Nelson's production variance will be high. If it's the latter, he'll be a value.