The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft by selecting another defensive player, Iowa DE Anthony Nelson, with the 107th overall selection in the 4th round.
At 6′ 7″, 271 lbs, Nelson looks like a five-technique in the Bucs new 3-4 scheme and will be a player that can compete with Will Gholston.
Anthony Nelson has impressive tape and eye-popping physical traits, but his athletic limitations are evident enough as a pass rusher that you wonder where the full-time fit is for him in the NFL. Despite his lack of explosiveness (very average first step) and bend (tight in the hips), Nelson still manages to corner at an impressive rate against college competition due to a wonderful bevy of rush moves off the edge.
Will those Ws continue at the NFL level, where pass rush athleticism is vital to the success of most edge rushers? Even if Nelson never becomes a double-digit sack artist, which I don’t expect him to, he’s a valuable and safe mid-round addition who can bring impressive run defense, interior nickel rush ability and high character to an organization. Hopefully we get to see him play inside a bit during Senior Bowl week.
Promising 4-3 defensive end prospect with outstanding length, good quickness and a play motor that keeps humming from snap to snap. Nelson needs to add play strength and learn to leverage his length to unlock his intriguing potential as a pass rusher. Teams could be tempted to play him inside in odd fronts, but he might not have the strength or physicality to handle that early on. His areas of concern are mostly correctable for a traits-based prospect with the potential for rapid improvement as a future starter.
Nelson was voted third-team All-Conference after a junior season where he totaled 45 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in 13 starts. At 6-foot-7, 271 pounds his size is nothing of question, but he struggles when translating that size to play strength and leverage. He’s got a decent power rush and has good counters when engaged by his offensive counterpart but lacks the explosiveness and agility to be a real factor off of the edge. He’s huge and plays through the whistle, moving much better when attacking the inside shoulder of offensive tackles and finishes tackles effectively. Look for Nelson to be a base 4-3 end taken on Day 3.