There can’t be a more disrespected WR1 in fantasy football than Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson.
He did that despite having Aaron Rodgers for less than half of a full season. In fact, he even established career highs in catches (85) and receiving yards (1,314), while also reeling in eight touchdowns.
Nelson has been so impressive over the past three years, in fact, that even when he missed four games and played banged up in 2012, he still finished as fantasy’s 30th best wide receiver.
Needless to say, whether he had an excuse to be subpar or not, Nelson has remained an elite fantasy weapon for three straight years.
So, is there any good reason to expect anything different in 2014? Not really.
It’s true that Randall Cobb missed a good portion of 2013, so his insane hype going into last season was never fully realized. There’s a chance that plays into 2014 a bit. The Packers want to get running back Eddie Lacy on the field more than ever, too, so furthering their offensive balance could be another factor that takes targets away from Nelson.
But if we’re being realistic, Nelson is still Green Bay’s #1 option. At least for the moment, there’s no stability at tight end, either. Jermichael Finley (neck) may never be back and the Packers may be forced to use three and four-wide receiver sets more than ever, while James Jones leaving for the Raiders takes away one more red-zone threat.
It all balances out to help keep one of the game’s most talented receivers very much in the driver’s seat for a top-10 finish. It’s hard to take Nelson over the likes of other sure-fire elites like Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and Julio Jones. Those guys are viewed as superior athletes with more concrete roles.
Neither of those things are necessarily true. Nelson is plenty athletic and has a huge role in a potent offense. Even without Rodgers in 2013, he was still a force in fantasy football.
A good indicator of what we can expect from Nelson is probably what we saw in 2012. Cobb was healthy and caught 80 balls, while Finley was still a part of the equation and James Jones caught an impossible to ever repeat 14 touchdowns.
Nelson wasn’t himself with ankle issues, though, and arguably wasn’t around for about six whole games. That gave fantasy owners over 700 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in just 10 games really, making his 30th place finish look even more impressive.
If we’re being honest, Nelson is really just competing with Randall Cobb here, and considering they’re totally different talents and play in different spots in the offense, it’s not even really a competition.
There has been a lot of chatter the past two years about Cobb approaching 100 receptions. The same could be said for Nelson, who is arguably more sure-handed, runs better routes and has the size and ball skills to go get balls that Cobb simply can’t.
Nelson is also the better red-zone option due to those very physical traits and skills, and his 30 touchdowns over the past three NFL seasons show you exactly why.
It’s probably not all that likely Nelson finishes second in fantasy football at the wide receiver position again like he did in 2011. He’s not going to finish 30th, either. He’s not restricted to being just barely outside the top-10, though, and it’s probably most likely that he’ll find a nice middle ground between 2011 and 2013, if he can stay healthy, of course.
That could put Nelson somewhere in the 75-80 catch, 1,200 receiving yard and 10 touchdown range. That’s not an obscene or unrealistic goal for a guy that has averaging those types of numbers over the past three seasons and is very much in his prime.
In fact, it’s very possible Nelson does even better. That makes him an elite WR1 once again in fantasy football, and also potentially the best value pick of any of those potential top-five finishers at wide receiver. He can be found in the second round of most fantasy drafts, but if you can get him to slide to you in round three you’re getting an awesome bargain.