Arizona Cardinals draft pick J.J. Nelson ‘can absolutely fly’

May 3, 2015, 1:19 AM | Updated: May 4, 2015, 4:12 pm

TEMPE, Ariz. — It is said that speed can kill. If that’s the case, then J.J. Nelson, a fifth-round pick and the 159th overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, may be the Grim Reaper.

“The fastest guy in the combine who can absolutely fly and has tremendous return skills,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim pointed out of Nelson, formerly of UAB who was timed at 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

While Keim was saying that, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians began to smile.

“It’s funny because I was at a track meet five years ago, four years ago, in Alabama — the state championships and my granddaughter was running,” the coach said. “This kid from Midfield won the 100, 200, 4×100 — little skinny dude. My son and I go, ‘Who in the hell is that?’

“It just happened to be J.J. Nelson.”

It’s difficult not to compare Nelson to John Brown, whom the Cardinals selected in the third round of last year’s draft. Both are on the smaller side for receivers, but each has blazing speed.

Arians said Nelson reminds him of Emmanuel Sanders, who he coached in Pittsburgh and is currently with the Denver Broncos, but added Sanders does not have the kind of speed his rookie does.

At 5-foot-10 and 156 pounds, Nelson will likely need to bulk up some in order to survive the rigors of the NFL, but Arians thinks they’ll be able to get him up to 175 pounds without too much trouble.

From there, the only problem should be for any defense trying to stop Arizona’s aerial attack, especially with speedsters Brown and Nelson on the field.

“He’s got a little more length than John, and Smoke’s (Brown) might be a little faster in and out, but what a great pair of fast guys,” Arians said.

Each are the type of receivers Arians likes to have in his offense, so it’s no surprise he’s excited about the possibilities he sees before him. Nelson sees himself as more than just a kick returner, believing he’ll be able to make an impact as a receiver during his time in the NFL.

Nothing is guaranteed, but what we do know is that the Cardinals added some serious speed to their receiving corps, and that’s never a bad thing.

“I already texted Carson (Palmer),” Arians said. “That quick five-step drop that you took for Smokey, you better get faster.

“He said, ‘I love it.'”

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