Rams draft picks: Is Jonathan Nelson another 7th round sleeper for the Rams?

CINCINNATI - SEPTEMBER 25: Jonathan Nelson #3 of the Oklahoma Sooners intercepts a pass intended for Armon Binns #80 of the Cincinnati Bearcats during the game at Paul Brown Stadium on September 25 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Seventh-round draft picks are defined by unrealized potential. Of the St. Louis Rams three picks from the draft's final frame, Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout noted the unrealized potential of Oklahoma S Jonathan Nelson, Devaney's final pick in the round, in his Sunday morning draft grades. Rang said that he was "highest" on the Nelson pick out of all their late-round moves. 

Digging around the interwebs there's not much info out there on Nelson since he didn't much until later in his career at Oklahoma. He also missed the Sooners' pro day this year with an injury. In order to learn more about Nelson I tapped the knowledge of our SBN brethren at Crimson and Cream Machine, SBN's Oklahoma Sooners site. 

Matt, the editor at CCMachine, you'll remember from an early April edition of Turf Show Radio, when he joined 3k and I to talk about the Sooners' prospects. 3k recently guested on CCM's podcast, where they talked more about Nelson. I asked Matt for more info on Nelson following the draft, and here's what he had to say about the Rams draft pick. 

What kind of player was Nelson for the Sooners?

Nelson was a good player for Oklahoma's defense. He wasn't a Roy Williams type safety nor was he ever close to being a four year starter but he is a player that once the coaching staff put put him on the field as a starter he wouldn't relinquish the role. Here's what you need to know about Nelson. He isn't flashy or boastful but he gets the job done. Linebacker Travis Lewis has the opportunity to do something that no other Sooner player has ever done. If he leads the team in tackles in 2011, Lewis will become the first player in school history to lead the team in that category four consecutive years. Jonathan Nelson almost ruined that! Lewis finished the 2010 season with a team high 109 total tackles but Nelson was just behind him at 102 tackles.

How would you describe his attributes and abilities and attitude?

He's strong in run support. Has good body control and speed. He isn't known as a ball hawk but he did log five interceptions in seventeen starts. He's also a solid tackler as already noted above. I think the thing that most defines him is his hustle and the fact that he never gives up on a play. Last year against Cincinnati, Bearcats receiver DJ Woods broke free for what was sure to be a touchdown except for the fact that Nelson caught up with him 68-yards down field and forced a fumble that was recovered by the Sooners and most likely saved the game.

Why do you think he slipped so far in the draft after being a productive player in a big time program?

I think the fact that he didn't become a starter until the final three games of his junior season hurt him the most. Despite his success at Oklahoma he isn't a guy who had a long track record in college. The other knock against him is his size. He's listed at 5-11/188 lbs. For comparison sake, that would make him the smallest safety on the St. Louis roster.

What kind of realistic ceiling do you see for him in the NFL?

Jonathan Nelson can make an immediate impact on special teams. That's how he made his way to a starting role at Oklahoma. However, for him to have the same success at the NFL level he'll need to put on some weight. To me that's the only thing holding him back. He's got the speed, knowledge and coverage skills to succeed.

Hustle, physical and under-the-radar, sounds like a Spagnuolo d-back if there ever was one. And speed to boot. This could be another solid seventh-round pick for the Rams. 

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