When Reggie Nelson entered the league as a first round pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 21 overall), expectations were high. As a rookie, Nelson answered the bell and was a fringe Pro-Bowler, racking up five interceptions, a sack, 11 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. It laid a path for even higher expectations going forward.
A combination of depleted talent around him, coaches misusing him as a cornerback and underperformance by Nelson himself put him in the doghouse of then-coach Jack Del Rio. After three seasons in Jacksonville, he was officially on the trading block.
The Bengals called and struck a deal for Nelson shortly before the season began. They shipped embattled cornerback David Jones and a conditional pick that ended up being a seventh-rounder in '12.
Even with the limited starts, Nelson played good football for the Bengals and propelled himself into a starting role in 2011. After another good season in 2011, Nelson was a sought-after free agent. He narrowed his search down to the Jets and the Bengals and ultimately decided to stick in Cincinnati, which was a refreshing change for the Bengals in free agency. He continued his Cincinnati renaissance in 2012, putting up another quality season and is locked up for two more seasons to come.
In his Bengals career spanning five seasons, Nelson has racked up 13 interceptions, one touchdown, seven forced fumbles, 5.5 sacks and 39 passes defensed. Perhaps the biggest play he has made as the Bengals safety came in Week 16 in 2012. Nelson picked off a Ben Roethlisberger pass, setting up a game-winning field goal that eventually sent Cincinnati to the playoffs for the second consecutive season.