Buffalo Bills Breakout Performances of 2012: Wide Receiver David Nelson

Robert Quinn@@RQuinn619Correspondent IMay 9, 2012

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 09:  David Nelson #86 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates with fans after scoring a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brody Wheeler/Getty Images)
Brody Wheeler/Getty Images

In the third installment of my “Predicting the Bills’ Breakout Players of 2012″ series, I’ll take a look at undrafted third-year wide receiver David Nelson out of Florida. 

David Nelson was signed in the 2010 offseason as an undrafted wide receiver/tight end out of the University of Florida. The 25-year old is entering the final year of his rookie deal which paid him $1.25 million over three years. Nelson is a big target at 6’5″, weighing 217 pounds, and made a great stride between his rookie and sophomore seasons while manning the slot receiver position.

The Bills were extremely deep at wide receiver in both 2010 and 2011, but Nelson fought his way into a starting role in Chan Gailey’s spread offensive attack.

Many analysts believe that the third year is when wide receivers make their big jump, and Nelson has been in the same offense for the first three seasons of his career, meaning that he has had the time to fully learn the playbook.

In his rookie season, Nelson made just three starts, reeling in 31 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns, but almost doubled those numbers last season. Nelson became one of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s favorite third down targets, catching 61 of the 98 passes thrown his way for 658 yards, adding another five touchdowns in his 13 starts.

While the Bills have a competition at the No. 2 wideout position, Nelson has clearly earned his role as the slot receiver due to his consistent hands, ability to gain the crucial third down, and his hard working attitude. While he isn’t the traditional small and speedy slot receiver, he utilizes his height and deceptive speed (4.54 40-yard dash) to beat linebackers and make plays.

After doubling his statistics the past two seasons coupled with the prospect of cashing in on a new deal, David Nelson should be in for a very productive 2012 campaign.