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Broncos 90-in-90: Corey Nelson could challenge for a starting ILB spot

The roster breakdowns roll on today with a look at middle linebacker hopeful, Corey Nelson.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Today we continue our annual 90-player roster breakdown in 90 days. If you missed the previous player breakdowns, you can check them out here.

Name: Corey Nelson
Position: LB
Height: 6'1"   Weight: 227 
Age: 24   Experience: 3
College: Oklahoma

Corey Nelson was drafted by Denver in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. He has been a solid contributor on special teams, logging more than 300 snaps there each season and filling in as needed on defense.

It really is a testament to Nelson's talent and work ethic that he has been able to make the 53-man roster both seasons after being drafted in the seventh round, as he seemed destined for the practice squad his rookie year with a crowded ILB group. However, Fox carried six ILBs on the final roster in 2014 and Nelson made the cut.

This past year, he impressed the new coaching staff and surpassed Steven Johnson and his higher drafted counterpart, Lamin Barrow, in making the final roster as one of only four inside linebackers. He did all this after tearing a pectoral muscle his senior season at Oklahoma and missing most of the season.

The Good: Nelson is a speedy linebacker who shows good coverage ability and good recognition in zone drops. He hasn't seen a lot of action on the defensive side of the ball but has filled in nicely when called upon. Check out the gif below as he gets his first NFL sack on Teddy Bridgewater.

Nelson is in a shallow zone and is eyeing Bridgewater the whole time. Nelson maintains discipline and then flashes quickness to close on the QB once the play breaks down and Bridgewater starts to scramble. Nelson only played three defensive snaps in this game, but he made the most of them. The play right after this, a pass was completed in his zone, and he closed to make a tackle short of the first down and forcing a fourth down.

The Bad: The biggest knock on Nelson is his size and ability to hold up in traffic. At 227, he is slightly undersized to play inside linebacker. I did not get a chance to really see much of Nelson in traffic versus the running game in the tape I watched, but that is big area where Nelson must prove he can hold his own if he is going to challenge for a starting spot. The other knock on him coming out of college was his ability to stay healthy. So far, Nelson seems to be doing fine in that department, though.

Quotable: "The Broncos called and they said we want him to try out for us and my agent was like ‘If you want him to come out, if you want him on your team, you’re going to have to draft him.’ (They said) ‘Okay, give us a sec.’ Next thing I know I get a call from John Elway and Pat Bowlen and they’re telling me that I’m a part of the Broncos. I was just blown away because it happened so fast." - CBS Sports

Apparently the Patriots were in talks to sign him as a CFA if he wasn't drafted, but Elway swooped in and took a chance on him coming off of injury, and once again stuck it to the Patriots ;)

Another really cool thing about Nelson was an award he received his rookie year from the team. From the same CBS article above:

"They actually made the award up for me," Nelson said of the team’s Community Rookie of the Year award, which was given to him in December. The award is given to a rookie who succeeds in making "immediate contributions to the community in his first NFL season." Nelson said he felt empowered from the moment he arrived in Denver to "get out in the community and change lives."

Status: I see Denver following last year's blue print and carrying four inside linebackers, which means Nelson has a pretty good shot at making the roster. I could actually see him challenging Todd Davis for some rotational snaps at the second ILB slot, especially on passing downs in our base nickel looks. As an OU fan, it's fun to see a guy from your college team be drafted by your pro team and stay on the roster. We'll see if this is the year where Nelson finally breaks out and contributes more snaps on defense.