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NFL Draft Diamonds Scouting Report: Patrick Nelson, S, SMU

Mark Thomas of NFL Draft Diamonds breaks down the game film of SMU safety Patrick Nelson.
  • Name: Patrick Nelson
  • Height: 6010
  • Weight: 215
  • Position: Safety
  • School: SMU

In this year’s draft there are a lot of prospects who consider themselves hybrid type guys due to the complex systems they come from. The prospect that opens my eyes the most is Patrick Nelson the 6-foot safety out of SMU. Nelson who played his last two years of eligibility in Dallas after graduating from the University of Illinois. He is one of those prospects that you can’tmiss even if you wanted to due to his ability to make tackles coming down hill, setting the edge or his overlooked cover skills. Nelson is as physical as they come. 

A native of Chicago’s south side, Nelson committed to Illinois after being looked at schools such as Indiana Vanderbilt, Nevada and Northwestern. Going into his freshman year he suffered an ACL injury but following the next year he bounced back into a starting role and having a productive year with 75 tackles 34solo at the strong safety position and racking up 65 tackles the next year. At Illinois he didn’t have a lot of responsibility, but he made the most of what he was giving. 

Graduating in 3 years, he left to go play for SMU where he truly became a household name in the group of 5. There he was able to show his versatility from the back end and come in the box and play ball. He made an impact stepping into racking up 35 solo tackles and 2 interceptions. He was placed all over the place at strong safety to nickel to outsider backer and even showing his presence as a mike backer or even as an edge rusher. His last year he racked up 80 tackles 58 solo and 12 sacks on the year leading the team in sacks. 

The thing about Nelson is that he is a hybrid guy that a lot teams will keep their eye on but the ultimate question about his draft stock will be where do you place him on the field and what teams decides to draft him. For him to be a successful player in the league he must be able to rely on his pure football IQ and acumen along with instincts to play. Also having a defensive coordinator who is complex in his schemes can also be a plus for his career putting him at spots to succeed. 

He didn’t get an invite to the combine so I’m anxious to see what he does at his pro day. Ill predict he runs a high 4.5 and he does good on his bench along with his field testing. For scouts sake, Don’t get caught up in the testing just watch the film. I could see a team picking him late in day 2, early day 3. Seattle, Houston, Arizona are teams I see as a destination. 

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at

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