Michigan State wide receiver Jalen Nailor announced on Monday that he will forgo his two remaining years of eligibility and declare for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Nailor was the Spartans' second-leading receiver in 2021, despite the fact that he missed the final four and a half games of the regular season. The redshirt junior injured his hand late in the first half of MSU's 37-33 win over Michigan.
Nailor returned for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and had six catches for 105 yards in the Spartans' 31-21 win over Pittsburgh.
“I look back to our bowl preparation, I felt like I was in a great rhythm with him – hitting him on the deep balls, our timing was right," Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne said after the game.
"Tonight, he played well, and I wasn’t putting it on him [during] the second, third quarter. He was doing his thing, and I told him, ‘I’m going to figure it out at some point.’ In the fourth quarter, he made a couple of key catches, and he’s a guy you can rely on and it was great for him.”
For the season, Nailor had 37 receptions for 695 yards and six touchdowns. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors from the media.
With Nailor's announcement, attention now turns to the Spartans other big threat on the outside -- Jayden Reed, another redshirt junior. When both players were on the field, Michigan State's passing attack was as formidable as any.
“They’re both tremendous players, as we all know," head coach Mel Tucker said. "They compete, they can win one-on-one, they’re dynamic players and they are team guys. They block hard in the run game, and in the pass game those guys are hard to cover. It’s not just deep balls, it could be the short game, intermediate, and also in the deep passing game. They’re very productive, they’re dangerous and they’re absolute difference-makers.”
For his career, Nailor finished with 86 receptions for 1,454 yards and 12 touchdowns in just 28 games. He averaged three catches per game and 16.9 yards per catch over four seasons in East Lansing.
A member of Michigan State's recruiting class of 2018, Nailor was one of those hidden gems that former head coach Mark Dantonio built his career upon in East Lansing. Nailor was a three-star receiver out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nev. He was ranked No. 750 nationally in his class, and the No. 118 wide receiver in the country.
It's fair to say that Nailor played well beyond his recruiting ranking.
Reed's decision now looms large for Michigan State. If he joins Nailor in the NFL Draft, the Spartans will be down their two best and most experienced wide receiver options.
Currently, the next two guys on the depth chart are redshirt sophomore Tre Mosley and true sophomore Montorie Foster. In 2021, Mosley had 35 catches for 530 yards and three touchdowns. Foster was turned to more during Nailor's injury, and finished with 12 catches for 164 yards and one touchdown.
Keon Coleman is another name to watch for in 2022. A true freshman this past season, Coleman logged seven catches for 50 yards and a touchdown over 10 games played in 2021.
Michigan State has signed three wide receivers in the 2022 class, but its fair to wonder if Tucker and his staff will look to the transfer portal for a more "ready now" option on the outside, especially if Reed declares for the Draft.