Why the 49ers Should Sign J.J. Nelson
Jose Luis Sanchez III
Lacking a vertical threat at wide receiver must be bugging Kyle Shanahan.
With Travis Benjamin opting out of the season, there is no one who can step up and fulfill the role. That is why the 49ers brought in Tavon Austin, Donte Moncrief, and J.J. Nelson. One of these receivers will likely ink a one-year deal with the 49ers, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they made the 53-man roster either.
But the one wide receiver that the 49ers should sign is J.J. Nelson.
Out of each of these receivers, Nelson is the one who truly presents a problem against the defense with his speed. Not to mention that he has the best resume as a receiver.
Moncrief hasn’t been productive since he was with the Indianapolis Colts when Andrew Luck was the quarterback. He's also shown how inconsistent his hands are, so he's a bit of a butterfingers.
Austin is more of an ideal special teamer and doesn’t carry any hope at playing receiver. Austin had 13 catches for 177 yards last season with Dallas, so he’s not going to play a role as a wide receiver.
With Nelson in the fold, the 49ers can still roll him out on special teams and utilize his speed to unleash a flurry of vertical based routes. Austin’s main attraction is his gadget ability, which would easily fit in the Niners’ system.
However, Nelson can definitely be that player.
Last year I had the chance to attend some of the Raiders’ practices in training camp and noticed how heavily involved Nelson was in the offense. It just wasn’t as a receiver - he was implemented as a gadget player consistently.
The only reason he wasn’t successful in Oakland was because injuries forced him to miss time that saw him fall out of favor. So he is very well capable of being that player should the 49ers want to explore that avenue with him.
His stats do not help his case in the last two years due to injuries, but the 49ers have proven that they’ll roll the dice on these players if they view the ceiling to be higher.