News & Analysis

Nelson's best days are behind him, could be a WR3 in Oakland

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 28: Jordy Nelson #87 of the Green Bay Packers scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on September 28, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The Oakland Raiders shook up their wide receiver corps on Thursday, releasing Michael Crabtree and then signing former Packers wideout Jordy Nelson to a two-year pact worth a reported $15 million. Crabtree appears bound for Baltimore, and Nelson now slots in a starter in Oakland opposite Amari Cooper.

One of the top fantasy wide receivers over the past half decades, Nelson reeled off WR1 seasons in four of the past seven years, with three top-five finishes. Over that span, he topped 1,000 receiving yards four times and thrice scored double-digit touchdowns.

Of course, the wheels seemed to come off for Nelson last season, as he struggled through an injury-riddled campaign and managed just 482 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 53 catches. To be fair, he did most of that without Aaron Rodgers under center, but one has to wonder how much tread is left on the tires with Nelson now entering his age-33 season.

In Oakland, Nelson will be paired up with a capable signal-caller in Derek Carr, who, like Nelson, is coming off a disappointing 2017 season. While Nelson figures to be the No. 2 option, there is modest fantasy appeal in this spot, especially when we consider the Raiders’ red-zone tendencies over the past three seasons. During that span, Crabtree was one of the most heavily targeted receivers in the end zone with an average of 17.3 end-zone targets per year. Likewise, Nelson saw ample volume in the end zone over that span with 19 end-zone targets in 2014 and 20 in 2016. Remember that Nelson missed the 2015 season due to injury.

Nelson’s red-zone upside plus the Raiders’ relatively thin depth chart when it comes to pass-catchers bode well for him to be a fantasy asset in 2018. That being said, it’s wise for fantasy players to not fall prey to name-brand recognition. Nelson was once an elite fantasy mainstay, but those days are in the past. It’s best to consider him as a WR3 in 2018.

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