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Friday, May 16, 2014
Rookie minicamp preview: Corey Nelson

By Jeff Legwold

The Denver Broncos will bring their draft class into their Dove Valley complex this weekend for a three-day, welcome-to-the-show rookie minicamp.

The first-year players will get their indoctrination into the Broncos’ way on all things football starting Friday. So, at Step 1 in their quest to earn a roster spot, it’s a good time to look at the expectations for each member of the six-player draft class.

Today: Seventh-round pick Corey Nelson

What does he bring to the table: Nelson fits the physical profile the Broncos like in their linebackers -- 6-foot, 231 pounds -- to go with good instincts to the ball around the line of scrimmage.

He has also played in a defense at Oklahoma that NFL coaches respect, and he plays with good intensity and doesn’t get fooled often. He was an Academic All-Big 12 selection in multiple seasons who plays with savvy and awareness to go with some pass-rush skills.

Prospects for playing time: Nelson also finds himself in a tough spot to snag a position on the depth chart. He projects as a weakside linebacker behind Danny Trevathan, who was the defense’s leading tackler and most consistent player last season.

Trevathan’s backup has been Steven Johnson, who has been one of the team’s best special teams players since he made the roster as an undrafted rookie in 2012. A team that usually keeps six linebackers simply might not have room for Nelson on the 53-man roster, but he can carve out a practice squad spot by showing them what he has to offer down the road.

"I feel like my style of play -- I have a knack for finding the ball," Nelson 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."

Biggest hurdle to playing time: Nelson’s play speed, particularly around the line of scrimmage is better than what he showed in his pro day workout in Norman, Okla. -- a 4.6-second time in the 40-yard dash -- and he consistently showed the ability to close to the ballcarrier with five yards of the line of scrimmage.

He doesn’t always show the flexibility he needs in his change-of-direction skills and sometimes struggles to get off blocks if he gets caught down inside in the high-traffic areas.

Nelson also missed all but five games of his senior season at Oklahoma after tearing a pectoral muscle.

"My pec is 100 percent, I’m good to go," Nelson said. "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."

The bottom line: He was a quality special teams player with the Sooners when he first arrived on campus, and that’s where he will have to make good to find a spot on the Broncos’ roster.

He starts his NFL career at a crowded spot on the depth chart with a Super Bowl team that also used a fifth-round pick on LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow to compete for the middle linebacker spot.