It came into sharp focus in the playoffs. But did we get any resolution?
Our initial reaction, after watching Nelson go for 9-140-1 on a whopping 15 targets in the Super Bowl, is to move Nelson solidly ahead of Jones for 2011.
But let’s dig deeper.
Jones was the No. 3 receiver, and Nelson No. 4, much of the season. Jones put up a 50/679/5 line, better than Nelson’s 45/582/2.
When you include the postseason, however, Nelson surges ahead. He finished 68th in Pro Football Focus’ exclusive player ratings, 19 spots ahead of Jones.
It’s a fair comparison because they played almost the exact number of snaps counting the playoffs: Nelson 556, Jones 554.
While Jones had the edge in yards per catch (13.7 to 13.2) and yards after the catch (5.7 to 5.2), Nelson holds the more significant edges.
Nelson was targeted 29 times in the playoffs, Jones 14.
Aaron Rodgers threw zero interceptions all season while targeting Nelson. He tossed two on passes intended for Jones.
Nelson finished with a substantially higher catch percentage than Jones – 73.3 to 62.2.
And here’s what really jumps out: Nelson played 53 of 58 snaps in the Super Bowl, Jones just 34.
Nelson played 42 snaps in each of the preceding playoff games. Jones played 32 and 26 respectively.
While Nelson was blamed for 11 drops, including four in the Super Bowl, Jones’ seven drops were at least as costly because of the lost potential for touchdowns. Remember the sideline drop on the go route vs. the Eagles?
Contract situations also favor the K-State product. Nelson is in the final year of his rookie deal, while Jones is due to become a free agent (labor situation permitting).
If you saw Jones outjump and outmuscle Brent Grimes for a touchdown against Atlanta, you know Jones is a specimen who will have a long and successful career.
But Nelson is a taller, more reliable target whom Rodgers appears to trust more. It’s easy to see Nelson sliding in as Rodgers’ No. 2 wide receiver behind Greg Jennings. (Remember, Jermichael Finley’s return will take away targets from both).
Assuming Jones re-signs with the Packers, give Nelson a big edge in PPR leagues and a slight edge in standard leagues.