Jalen Nailor, Michigan State WR | NFL Draft Scouting Report

If you need speed, you could do worse than "Speedy Nailor." Michigan State WR Jalen Nailor has an NFL Draft scouting report full of upside.

If you’re looking for speed in the 2022 NFL Draft, there are a few wide receivers who come to mind. Jameson Williams and Calvin Austin III might be the first couple. But Michigan State WR Jalen Nailor also has an appealing NFL Draft scouting report. In particular, his speed can bring a dynamic element to an NFL passing attack. But what more does he offer, and what is his ceiling?

Jalen Nailor NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • School: Michigan State
  • Current Year: Redshirt Junior
  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 190 pounds

Jalen Nailor Scouting Report

With a nickname like “Speedy Nailor,” you’d expect speed to be a vital part of Nailor’s game. Predictably, it is. Nailor led the Big Ten in yards per catch in 2020, and he was second in the conference in that same category this past year. For his career, Nailor averaged almost 17 yards per catch, and he also took 17 carries out of the backfield for 163 yards and a score.

The Michigan State WR doesn’t have a ton of buzz on the draft circuit. But in an incredibly deep 2022 wide receiver class, he’s another player who demands attention. Teams are constantly seeking out value in the mid-to-late rounds, and Nailor might be the guy who provides that this cycle.

Nailor’s athletic profile

Listed at 6’0″, 190 pounds, Nailor has decent size — enough to hold up in the NFL. The Michigan State WR is an explosive athlete with field-stretching speed. He can stack defensive backs and get into space, and he can also take short passes and blast through congestion.

With his speed, Nailor can stretch space and warp tackling angles. But that’s not the only athletic tool he has in his tool chest. Nailor’s acceleration is also a big part of his game. The Michigan State WR gears up deceptively quickly and can blow by unsuspecting defensive backs. His long, energetic strides cover a lot of ground, and he can swiftly get upfield on screens.

Nailor also has some shiftiness to his game, and his combination of acceleration and agility translates to good run-after-catch potential. He’s a sudden, twitchy mover with great stop-and-start ability. Moreover, Nailor has flashed good throttle control. He can decelerate quickly at breaks and get up to speed again without much delay. Nailor’s explosiveness also shows up downfield, where he’s shown he can spring off the ground and elevate for passes.

Execution beyond the physical traits

Nailor’s speed makes him unique in the 2022 NFL Draft class. But there’s more to his game than that. Particularly downfield, Nailor has a knack for tracking the ball, especially over his shoulder. With his ball-tracking ability, he can make smooth adjustments to get into positioning, and he naturally flows to the ball. He also has good blind-spot awareness and can sneak into open zones downfield with his speed.

At the catch point, Nailor flashes as well. The Michigan State WR flashes great body control and coordination at the catch point. While he needs more consistency as a catcher, he has shown he can extend and snare the ball at the catch point.

What’s great about Nailor’s style, however, is that he has immense route-running potential, and that lends him space to avoid contested situations. Nailor flashes fast feet at the line and can gain displacement early with his releases. Especially on hitch routes, he’s able to chop his feet quickly and sink his hips to gain quick separation. Nailor can turn on a dime on routes, but he can also be used on motions, drags, and jet sweeps to create more looks.

Nailor will win even more scouts over with his blocking ability. While he lacks imposing size, the Michigan State WR is a willing blocker who can latch under his opponents’ pads. He’s assignment-sound and isn’t afraid to square up and be physical.

Areas for improvement

Nailor’s upside will be enough to sell him on teams, but he’s not a finished product. The most pressing issue on his tape is his catching ability. Nailor can be susceptible to focus drops. The Michigan State WR sometimes cups the ball instead of clasping it. He also resorts to body catches at times and can better pluck the ball with his hands. Additionally, he doesn’t quite have the consistent hand strength or coordination to corral off-target throws.

Going further, Nailor’s catching inconsistency is exacerbated by contact. The ball can easily be jarred loose through the catch process, and in tight spaces, Nailor loses track of the ball and struggles to secure. On quick passes, he doesn’t always get his head around in time. As of now, he needs more comfort and space to be consistent. And after the catch, he doesn’t consistently break tackles with his lighter frame.

Expanding on Nailor’s profile, the Michigan State WR can still expand his route tree and employ more sharpness and deception with his routes. He can also expand his release package. He has all the traits and flashed against press but can be vanilla off the line at times. There’s room for Nailor to sink his hips better and quicken his releases.

Among other things, while Nailor has high-level speed, he might not be quite at the level of Jameson Williams. He has good burst, but he gears up better in space, where he can open his strides. Furthermore, Nailor sometimes loses his balance when trying to work past defenders downfield.

Nailor’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview

Nailor brings a definite speed element coveted at the next level. He has a 4.39 40-yard dash on record and could go on to eclipse that at the NFL 2022 NFL Combine. His speed allows him to stack defensive backs and get separation downfield, as well as extend short passes and explode into space.

With his speed and explosiveness, Nailor has two-pronged appeal as a deep and a run-after-catch threat. While his linear speed is his greatest asset, he has some shiftiness and agility with the ball in his hands. And down the field, he can seep into blind spots, and he tracks the ball in the air exceptionally well.

Of course, Nailor is far from a finished product. While he has stellar route-running upside with his burst, twitch, and hip sink, he can still expand his release package and route tree. The Michigan State WR also struggles to work through contact at the catch point and can struggle with drops. If he can’t use his traits to separate effectively at the next level, his inconsistency in contested situations will only be magnified.

Nevertheless, there’s a great deal of upside with Nailor. If he can further refine his route running and improve his hands, he can be a dynamic, versatile receiver for an NFL offense. He also offers solid run-blocking ability and some return experience. He’s likely an early-to-mid Day 3 pick, but with a strong Combine performance, Day 2 isn’t out of the question.

Nailor’s Player Profile

Nailor played high school football at the vaunted Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bishop Gorman is a known factory for college football talent, and Nailor was one of the players on the conveyor belt in the 2018 class. After catching 93 passes for 1,736 yards and 26 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Bishop Gorman, the Nevada product earned a three-star recruit billing and fielded Power Five offers.

With a 4.69 40-yard dash, a 37.5-inch vertical, and a strong 4.21 short-shuttle time, Nailor tantalized teams with his athletic upside. He received scholarship offers from plenty of schools in the west, including Colorado, Arizona State, and Nevada. He also drew interest from Big Ten competitors like Purdue and Wisconsin.

Nailor originally committed to Arizona State. But the Sun Devils soon fired head coach Todd Graham, leaving Nailor to reevaluate his options. When several Spartans receivers transferred out of East Lansing, Nailor saw a budding opportunity at Michigan State, and he took advantage of it.

Nailor’s career at Michigan State

Nailor got his feet wet as a true freshman in 2018. The Michigan State WR caught 8 passes for 138 yards and 2 scores and picked up 9 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown. He showed enough promise to earn an increased role early on in 2019. But after just four games, he’d be knocked out for the rest of the season with a broken foot.

Luckily for Nailor, he was able to preserve his redshirt in 2019, and so he returned as a redshirt sophomore in 2020. In a truncated seven-game season, Nailor kept flashing his potential. Across that stretch, he caught 26 passes for 515 yards and 4 touchdowns, leading the Big Ten in yards per catch. Nailor accounted for over 30% of his team’s passing output that year and earned third-team All-Big Ten honors as a result.

In 2021, the Spartans’ passing attack took a drastic step forward, and much of the credit goes to Nailor and his teammate Jayden Reed. Nailor missed four games due to a hand injury, but in the nine games he played, he registered 37 catches for 695 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Averaging around 4 catches and 77 yards per game, Nailor took home honorable mention recognition in the conference and helped the Spartans beat Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl. After the bowl victory, Nailor soon announced his intentions to declare for the 2022 NFL Draft.

Nailor’s NFL Draft ascension

One could argue that Nailor left school before a complete breakout season. But now 23 years old, Nailor didn’t have much more time to wait. The Michigan State WR has been hampered by injuries in multiple seasons, but when he’s on the field, he shows plenty of promise.

With his age, injury history, and room for further development, Nailor might not command early-round capital. But on Day 3, for a team that knows how to use him and can develop receiver talent, Nailor could be a diamond in the rough, who at the very least can catalyze an offense as a rotational spark plug and deep threat.

Nailor has great speed and explosiveness to go along with ball-tracking ability, run-after-catch potential, and existing route-running upside. Some cosmetic factors work against the Michigan State WR, but there are tools to mold.

Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Jalen Nailor

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.

Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @IC_Draft.

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