Niner Noise’s “Who Is?” series on 2017 San Francisco 49ers players takes a look at long-snapper Kyle Nelson, finally giving the unknown specialist some love.
Who is San Francisco 49ers long-snapper Kyle Nelson?
Well, if you aren’t exactly familiar with his name, that’s a good thing.
The best long-snappers rarely receive attention around the NFL. And that’s the best kind of specialist here. Good ones, like former 49ers long-snapper Brian Jennings, made names for themselves outside of what they do on the field.
San Francisco 49ers
Because if you know their name, chances are they aren’t performing well on special teams.
Nelson played his college ball at New Mexico State, eventually signing on with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He bounced around with a few teams before finally finding a long-term home with the Niners in 2014.
Also listed as a tight end, Nelson’s offensive contributions have been nonexistent. And that’s fine. It’s not his job to contribute, offensively.
Instead, he’ll be asked to remain an unknown — yet important — commodity within San Francisco’s special teams unit.
Why He’ll Improve
There isn’t much to say here outside of remaining consistent. The Niners replaced Jennings with Kevin McDermott in 2013, although that only worked out for one season.
The fact Nelson has stayed put for three years says enough. San Francisco has little reason to move on from him right now, and it isn’t as if his name has been associated with poor snaps on field-goal tries and punts.
Nelson is also 30 years old, and this isn’t exactly a rigorous position demanding a heavy toll on one’s body. Jennings was 37 years old when he retired, so it’s safe to say there’s plenty of good football left in Nelson’s body.
Why He’ll Regress
The Niners locked Nelson up through the 2018 season, so the only question mark between now and then is whether or not Nelson begins to struggle at any point.
Previous looks suggest this won’t happen anytime soon, and the only real reason San Francisco might want to move on would be an increase in contract value. And that isn’t something worth discussing for at least another year.
Sure, Nelson could suddenly lose his rhythm and struggle with snaps. But it’s hard to doubt him now.
What to Expect in 2017
With a crowded tight end position, Nelson won’t see much of the field on offense, if at all, this upcoming season.
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That limits him, rightfully so, to his duties on special teams.
A player like Nelson can only be found on the deepest parts of the depth chart. And if he’s doing his job well enough, few will know his name. One can hope the veteran continues this reputation, much like Jennings did during his elongated career with San Francisco.
If so, San Francisco’s special teams will be that much better off.