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2022 NFL Draft Profile: Michigan State Wide Receiver Jalen Nailor

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Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Tomorrow, the 2022 NFL Draft begins in Las Vegas. The first round starts at on Thursday, April 28 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, with rounds two and three coming on Friday night, and rounds four through seven taking place throughout Saturday.

For Michigan State, at least three Spartans have an opportunity to get selected by NFL teams: running back Kenneth Walker III, tight end/H-back/fullback Connor Heyward and wide receiver Jalen Nailor. Let’s take a closer look at Nailor’s draft profile.

Profile:

Name: Jalen Nailor
Position: wide receiver
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 186 pounds
Draft Projection: Day Three pick (fourth-seventh rounds)


NFL Combine/Pro Day Measurables:

40-yard dash: 4.50 seconds
Bench press (225 pounds): 14 reps (at Michigan State’s Pro Day)
Vertical jump: 38.0 inches
Broad jump: 10-feet-8-inches
Three-cone drill: 7.03 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.28 seconds

Nailor more than likely boosted his draft stock at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in early March.

Nicknamed “Speedy,” Nailor initially ran his two 40-yard dash attempts with strong unofficial times of 4.47 seconds and 4.46 seconds, respectively, however the NFL’s officially reviewed time came back at 4.50 seconds. While solid, Nailor probably was hoping for a faster showing, but he impressed in other ways as well, ranking in the top-eight at the wide receiver position in both the vertical jump and broad jump, and ranking in the top-five in both the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuffle.

After skipping the event at the combine, Nailor did participate in the bench press at Michigan State’s Pro Day later in March, recording 14 reps of 225 pounds. Outside of that, Nailor sat on his impressive combine numbers and focused mostly on the positional drills during the pro day event.

Throughout the NFL Combine and MSU’s pro day, Nailor was able to show scouts and coaches his combination of coveted traits, such as speed, athleticism and explosiveness. He also showed off his hands and concentration on multiple occasions.

“(I have been working on) just being consistent, catching the ball, getting in and out of breaks well,” Nailor said after Michigan State’s pro day. “(I am) just trying to fine tune everything.”

Nailor tested well in several areas throughout the pre-draft process, which is why he came in with a rather high mark of about 8.1 in Kent Lee Platte’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS) metrics.

RAS compares players’ testing metrics to others in their position group and assigns an overall score. Nailor earned a “great” grade in the speed category, an “elite” grade in the explosion category and an “okay” grade in the agility category. However, Nailor’s small stature at just 5-feet-11-inches tall and 186 pounds earned him a “poor” score in the size department, which brought down his overall number.

Nailor certainly has the tools and talent to not only get drafted, but make an NFL roster. However, will his size, lack of length and durability concerns hold him back? Time will tell.


Statistics and Accolades

Via MSUSpartans.com

Games Played: 28 (including 21 starts)
Rushing: 17 carries for 163 yards (9.6 yards per carry) and one touchdown
Receiving: 86 receptions for 1,454 yards (16.9 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns
Kickoff Returns: nine attempts for 179 yards (19.9 yards per attempt)
Punt Returns: eight attempts for 48 yards (6.0 yards per attempt)
All-Purpose Yards: 1,844 yards (65.9 yards per game)
Total Touchdowns: 13 total (12 receiving and one rushing)


Overview

Nailor projects as a Day Three pick (rounds four through seven), and perhaps more likely in the middle or latter half of Day Three. He is an intriguing potential late-round prospect for NFL teams looking to add a “speedy” outside receiver (who could also potentially play as a slot on the inside if needed, too). In fact, CBS Sports recently listed Nailor as one of “10 underrated sleepers who won’t be picked early but will turn into quality players.”

The traits with Nailor are obvious, and he showed those off at the NFL Combine and at Michigan State’s pro day. We’ve already talked about his speed (he has an accomplished background as a sprinter on the track), explosiveness and overall athleticism. But he’s also improved as a run-router, can make things happen after the catch, is a willing blocker and has shown better hands year over year — Nailor recorded five drops in just seven games in 2020 compared to just four drops in nine games in 2021.

However, there are obvious concerns from scouts and coaches with Nailor as well. First and foremost, his durability is his biggest question mark. Nailor has suffered multiple injuries and missed significant time on the field in 2018, 2019 and 2021. He has not played more than nine games in any one of his four seasons in East Lansing (he did play all seven games during the COVID-19 shortened season). Overall, Nailor was active for just 28 games out of a possible 46 contests.

Nailor put up solid numbers in the games he was active in, but the missed time obviously affected his overall production at Michigan State. Other knocks on Nailor’s various scouting reports include his smaller size (5-foot-11, 186 pounds) and strength, which could affect his ability to beat press coverage in the NFL. He also did have a few concentration drops, as we’ve mentioned above.

Due to those reasons, and the fact that the 2022 NFL Draft is considered incredibly deep at the wide receiver position, Nailor likely won’t hear his named called until Day Three on Saturday. He could go as early as the fifth round, or as late as the seventh round, but it would be quite surprising to not see Nailor get selected at all.

Overall, Nailor could end up being a late-draft steal and could certainly make a 53-man active roster in the NFL as a fourth or fifth receiver. He also brings special teams value. There will of course be a lot of competition to earn an active roster spot, but Nailor has the work ethic to accomplish those goals. It will be interetsing to see what transpires with Nailor in the near future.


What scouts and analysts are saying about Nailor:

“Speedy outside target with field-stretching talent who has been beset by injuries in three separate seasons. Nailor is sudden but smooth with his route release and his gliding gait tends to mask his acceleration, allowing him to climb quickly past the coverage. While he can work deep, he has the agility and body control to become a more effective route specialist on all three levels. Nailor is a competitor but has some trouble winning battles against stronger, physical corners. Teams will need to weigh the playmaking speed against the injury background, but Nailor has the talent to become an NFL backup.” - NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein

“If he could stay healthy you would have something with him, but he’s just not very durable.” — Scout for NFC team

Positives: Reliable receiver who runs good routes and separates from defenders. Quickly releases off the line of scrimmage, immediately gets to top speed, and tracks the pass in the air. Nicely times receptions, possesses terrific eye/hand coordination, and makes the difficult over-the-shoulder reception downfield. Consistently catches the ball with his hands. Quick-footed in and out of breaks, sells routes, and stays low on exit. Nicely makes the reception at full speed and adjusts to errant throws to catch the ball in stride. Uses his frame to shield away opponents.

Negatives: Possesses a thin frame and struggles in battles. Lacks a second gear. Has not been very durable in college. Turned in average production at Michigan State.

Analysis: Nailor is a consistent pass catcher with outstanding short speed and route-running ability. He easily gets separation in the short and intermediate fields and possesses enough pass-catching skills to make a roster as a fifth receiver.”
- Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline

“He can get down the field. He’s a really smooth, fast-playing, not fast-timing, athlete on the field. I think he’s going to be a day three pick, probably a No. 4 receiver in the league.” – ESPN’s Todd McShay, via MLive


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