As the first of Denver's rookies to sign a contract, it seems only appropriate to get a closer look at Corey Nelson, a linebacker out of the University of Oklahoma. For more insight on our seventh-round pick, we hear from Matt Hofeld of the Crimson and Cream Machine. And if you haven't read it before, you may want to check out his post after the draft about what the Denver Broncos should know on Nelson.
Nelson was picked in the last round of the draft as the 242nd overall pick. Since his season-ending injury last fall was a likely cause for his drop in the draft, what can you tell Broncos fans about the steal they've gotten in Nelson?
Matt - In Corey Nelson, the Broncos got a guy who has a high motor and great football knowledge. In my opinion, he's certainly a guy who would have gone higher in the draft had he not been injured during the season. I would have had him graded out as a fourth- or fifth-round guy without the injury. He's a player who will have to earn his keep to stay on the team, but he has the drive to do just that.
Many standout college football players consider leaving college early to get to the pros as soon as they can. Nelson tried to add a fifth year to his college career because of missing most of his senior year to injury. Was this primarily to up his draft stock? What makes you believe he is ready for the pros?
Matt - Trying to stay another year was all about improving his draft stock. He's not a seventh-round guy and he knows it. Nelson loved his time at Oklahoma and certainly that would have been a bonus to getting another year of eligibility, but the motive for the appeal was getting a better chance at NFL money by moving up in the draft.
Although you mentioned "Nelson lacks the size of a prototypical NFL middle linebacker," you also said he is a "thick player who knows how to use his strength to his advantage." Elaborate on how his size/speed is a strength and a potential weakness.
Matt - I think it depends on where they try to play him. I don't see him making it as a middle linebacker, but I believe he could be on the field at the weak-side. At 6'0, 231 pounds, he's not going to be able to take the wear and tear of the middle, and I'm not sure that he could shed blocks and not get jammed, but he's suited for the outside with his speed and strength. He's quick to get downhill, has a good burst, and really good closing speed. I also think that he could be a good blitz option.
What do you like best about his tackling abilities and why is this an asset in the NFL? Where does he need to improve in this area?
Matt - He has great closing speed and can get to the ball quickly. His burst at the snap can also put him in position to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He uses his legs well to explode into the tackle but will need to develop better technique in terms of hitting and wrapping. He often tries to knock a ball carrier over instead of bring them down.
Nelson had an outstanding sophomore year with 58 tackles and 5.5 sacks followed by a slightly less productive junior year before putting up great numbers in the first five games of his senior season at OU with 27 tackles, a sack and an interception prior to a season-ending injury. When you look at his numbers, what do you think are the most promising for a potential NFL career and why?
Matt - A shift in defensive philosophy resulted in his numbers dropping a bit in his junior season. The Sooners shifted to a using a 4-2-5 and even some 4-1-6 alignments, along with the 3-4, and it had an impact on him. He was still the same player that he was as a sophomore but just not used as much. When you consider the shift, the fact that his tackle count only dropped by 11 is actually a bit impressive.
I think you have to look at his 17.5 tackles for loss and his 6.5 sacks during his career at Oklahoma when looking at ways he can be successful in the NFL. He has a knack for making plays in the offensive backfield.
You've highlighted his pick-6 against Notre Dame last year as a career moment. Do you see Nelson as a good fit for this Broncos' Defense? How and when do you think his skills will best be used to make him a contributing force?
Matt - That interception was crucial to helping Oklahoma beat the Irish, something that they hadn't done since 1956, and will be a lasting memory to OU fans for a long, long time. That said, I think Nelson is going to have to make his mark as a special teams guy first in Denver and then earn his spot on the field from there. I honestly believe that his best shot at success is on the outside linebacker, particularly on the weak side.