He started his career as a No. 4 receiver, an unheard-of fate for a second-round draft pick. The first of three second-round picks in 2008, he was the third receiver drafted overall, and ahead of such future playmakers as Matt Forte, DeSean Jackson, Tracy Porter and Ray Rice. Until this year, he had spent most of his four training camps battling with James Jones for the No. 3 receiver job, behind Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. Outside of Green Bay and Kansas State University denizens, few had ever heard of the tall, bulky receiver.
Then Jordy Nelson caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl, and the jig was up.
In an offense that most preseason observers expected to be dominated by Jennings and Jermichael Finley, Nelson has produced staggeringly well. Jennings currently ranks 7th in the league with 51 catches for 755 yards, and there's no question that he's the No. 1 receiver on this offense. But at this point, Nelson appears to have surpassed Jones and Driver, and maybe even Finley, as the clear No. 2 option. He has 34 catches, one more than Finley, but they've gone for a career-high 633 yards. Finley has 445.
Nelson's speed, which the Journal Sentinel called "deceptive," has helped him up that yardage total, and stretch short throws from Aaron Rodgers into long gains. Against the St. Louis Rams and the Carolina Panthers, he took a pair of quick slants 93 and 84 yards, respectively, for scores. But Nelson, who ran a 4.5 40-yard dash coming out of K-State, is also a legitimate deep threat. He caught a 50-yard TD against Denver on a play-action rainbow, and hauled in a monstrous 64-yard bomb against San Diego off a Rodgers scramble.
Cornerbacks around the league now know that Nelson is dangerous both on long and short throws, and is a huge threat for yards after the catch. (He averages 18.6 yards per catch, tied with Carolina's Steve Smith for the most among players with 30+ catches). He's also the most talented blocker among the wide receivers, using his 6'3", 217-pound body to control cornerbacks. When the Packers send in their two-TE, two-back, one-WR package, Nelson is inevitably the blocking wideout. It's a job he performs faithfully and well; for the first two years of his career, it was one of his biggest duties. Now that he's one of the emerging stars of the Green Bay offense, he has more glamorous jobs to look forward to, most of them involving an end zone celebration.
Nelson has already started a career-high four games, is tied with Jennings for the team lead with seven touchdowns, and is on pace for his first-ever 1,000 yard season. He's rarely injured and seems to have matured rapidly. Midway through his fourth season and with a new contract in hand, there's no reason to think that Nelson won't be a productive starter in Green Bay for many years to come.