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Broncos roster 2017: Dontrell Nelson

The undrafted free agent faces a steep climb to make the practice squad, let alone Denver’s 53-man roster.

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NCAA Football: Birmingham Bowl-Auburn vs Memphis Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Dontrell Nelson
Position: CB
Height: 6’1" Weight: 170 lbs
Age: 22 Experience: 1st
College: Memphis

Every year it seems an undrafted free agent shines for the Denver Broncos.

He takes advantage of his opportunity, gets on the Broncos’ 53-man roster and proceeds to make a name for himself. There’s Chris Harris Jr., Shaquil Barrett and C.J. Anderson, to name a few.

The consensus with most is that safety Jamal Carter will be that player this year. I’ll throw another name out there, for argument’s sake: cornerback Dontrell Nelson.

The rookie from Memphis has the size, speed and athletic ability the Broncos love in their defensive backs. Nelson also has a knack for finding the ball, a trait he’s carried with him since his days at Olive Branch High in Mississippi.

The challenge is steep, but the reward will make any player dive a little deeper. And how often does a young cornerback learn from, play with and watch the best secondary in the NFL?

Despite all of that, it’s going to be a steep challenge for Nelson to make the practice squad in Denver. For even that to happen, he has to shine each and every day.

The Good

As mentioned above, Nelson has all of the tangibles to succeed in the Broncos’ secondary. He has the size, speed, athleticism and physicality. If there was a mold for a Denver cornerback, he fits it. Nelson has also shown when he’s on the field he makes plays.

In his most recent game, the Boca Raton Bowl, he was the highest-rated member of the Tigers. That’s about all he wants to remember from that game since Memphis lost to Western Kentucky 51-31.

In his last season with the Tigers, Nelson played in only eight games, including four starts, but he finished in a five-way tie for the team lead with two interceptions. He also recorded 22 total tackles, including one for a loss. In his career at Memphis, Nelson started 12 games and recorded five interceptions.

There’s no doubt that Nelson has the ability, the question is can he stay on the field.

The Bad

As the Commercial Appeal in Memphis said in its story when Nelson signed in Denver, he’s a talented but oft-injured cornerback. That’s the reason he missed so many games last season. For Nelson to have a legitimate shot at the practice squad, he has to stay on the field.

The other obstacle for him to overcome is the depth and talent in Denver’s secondary. So on top of staying on the field, he has to outshine guys just as talented, if not more so, and do it at a consistent clip. Nelson can also stand out on special teams, but if he doesn’t have the experience in that phase of the game he has to learn quickly.



While it would be awesome to see Nelson become the next undrafted free agent to make the Broncos’ 53-man roster and become the next star, it’s highly unlikely that happens. In fact, it’s unlikely he even makes Denver’s practice squad.

What Nelson has going for him is the right attitude. But if he’s going to keep his dream alive in the NFL, it will more than likely come with another team. The mountain is too high for it to happen with the Broncos.