The Denver Broncos decided to add another linebacker to their roster with their final pick in the 2014 NFL draft on Saturday. In the seventh round at 242nd overall, the Broncos drafted Corey Nelson out of Oklahoma.
On a conference call to the Denver media, Nelson just felt relieved to know where he was going to begin his pro career.
“I’m just pretty happy to be chosen right now. I give God all the glory for everything that’s happened. I just put it all in His hands and put it all in His will because I knew whether I went drafted or undrafted that I would have a spot or a chance to come in and compete for a team.”
Nelson is coming off surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle. This ended his final season at Oklahoma, but he was healthy enough to participate in the Sooners’ pro day. Nelson is confident in his health.
“My pec is 100 percent, I’m good to go. It was supposed to be a six-month healing process but it only took me three-and-a-half, and I give God all the glory for that.”
Nelson is a bit undersized at 6’0” and 231 pounds. He ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash at the Sooners’ pro day, and he also recorded a 9’9” broad jump. These numbers show that Nelson has the speed and explosion to be an effective player in the open field.
The Broncos want a linebacker who can stay on the field for all three downs. Nelson is that type of player because of his athleticism and nose for the ball. He’s a smart player who can get to the pass when it’s incoming because of his closing burst.
He can make plays on the ball, and during his time with the Sooners Nelson had 10 pass break-ups total. In 2013 Nelson picked off a pass against Notre Dame and returned it for a touchdown. It’s these attributes that are most coveted by the Broncos.
As a run-defender Nelson is not going to be a player who can meet big running backs head-on. He’s more of a finesse player, and too often he’ll try to run around blocks rather than through them.
Durability is also a question mark for him. The way he plays the game won’t help keep him healthy either. Nelson launches himself into action, often with little regard for his body or personal safety.
He has bad habits against the run, and this could also hinder him as a special teams player.
One attribute that will help him greatly as a pro is his leadership ability. Nelson would take young players under his wing at Oklahoma to help guide them. He’s a hard worker, and Nelson wants to work hard to impress on the football field.
We’ll see the Broncos bring Nelson along as a developmental player. The fact that he can play outside or inside only adds to his value for the team.
He’ll likely begin his pro career as a backup, and he could work on special teams because of his speed and lateral agility.
He can play weak-side linebacker, so perhaps Nelson could end up being a primary backup behind Danny Trevathan. That might be his best spot.
Nelson can also play inside linebacker for the Broncos. Right now they have fellow rookie Lamin Barrow, veterans Nate Irving and Steven Johnson to compete at that position. We could see Nelson in this mix as well.
Nelson has his own ideas about his style of play and his versatility.
"I feel like my style of play—I have a knack for finding the ball," he said. "Explosive, fast, can run sideline to sideline, pretty strong. And I would say covering and playing inside the box, I can do both of those well since I played in two separate defenses at Oklahoma. I can do both of those pretty well, I can play in both of those, depending on wherever the coach wants to put me."
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Nelson will begin his career in Denver as a reserve player. If he impresses enough in training camp, then he can win a spot on the 53-man roster. The team may want to give him a bit more time to develop, so a spot on the practice squad is always an option.
Cecil Lammey can be followed on Twitter @CecilLammey.