Charles Nelson is a special football player. I mean to use the general term of "football player" because based on last season he doesn't really have a position. People argue whether Tyrann Mathieu is a safety or a cornerback. But with Charles Nelson you first have to figure out what side of the ball he lines up on. Khalil Mack was named to the Pro Bowl as a defensive end and linebacker. Could Charles Nelson be voted as a top wide receiver and safety in the conference?
We haven't seen Charles Nelson devoted to one position or role his entire time at Oregon. He's always been splitting time on both sides of the ball. Is his potential being limited by being spread too thin? Regardless, he just seems to be too good at football. Not too good at wide receiver or too good on special teams. He might be too good at football. All evidence shows he's too good to be restricted to only one position. That's why the coaches have discussions before the season over who gets to have Nelson on their unit.
What is most important to recognize with Charles Nelson is that he doesn't seem to care where he plays. He doesn't care about being asked to play safety and playing wide receiver in the same season, or game for that matter. It can limit his stats and stardom on a national scale. But Nelson is a star and you get the feeling that the coaches could ask him to do literally anything and he would say, "Yeah, I can do that for you." He is an offensive weapon, a touchdown waiting to happen on returns, but also the most devastating tackler on kick coverage, and able to make interceptions and hits as a safety. There aren't many people in football that can impact the game in so many different ways.
Charles Nelson is fast but has an elusive amount of power behind him. He hits people so hard that there must be some type of waves like a sonic boom that is emitted that is hidden because the naked eye is unable to see it. There's a play where you see Charles Nelson running towards a USC tight end about to catch a football and when Nelson collides he separates the ball from the receiver. Pretty great, especially coming from someone whose listed weight at 170 pounds is probably generous.
Statistically, Nelson doesn't list well in any pre-season guide. Last year he was the ninth-leading tackler with 47, had 17 catches for 270 yards, and had 6 carries for 115 yards. If someone were to look at only the offensive or defensive depth charts he wouldn't stand out. But the ability to be a playmaker is really the one factor a player can have that doesn't translate into a box score, nor can the contribution to a team be directly quantified. It might be possible that the best indicator is the number of snaps he takes in a game. Against Washington State he played 140 downs. Against Arizona State he was in the game for 133 downs.
When Nelson is on the field there's a real chance that anything could happen. If someone is watching a football game for their first time I would tell them to just watch #6. He'll be around the ball on every play and will probably have one or two "holy shit" moments a game. Maybe "holy shit moments per game" is the best indicator of his contributions to the team. Because rushing yards, receiving yards, tackles, or even touchdowns don't do Charles Nelson justice.
The only thing that restricts Charles Nelson's playmaking abilities is the fact that there are only sixty minutes in a football game and a finite number of snaps. It's probably for the best that he plays nearly every down on both sides of the ball.