Diamond in the Rough: Corey Nelson

Diamond in the Rough: Corey Nelson, LB, Oklahoma
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Every year in the NFL Draft, there are talented players who slip through the cracks. Players go undrafted for a variety of reasons like being too undersized, a lack of speed, injuries, a lack of production in college or playing at lower level of competition. Some players end up not getting invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and end up falling to the late rounds or going undrafted all together.

The history of the NFL features some great players who went undrafted, including Hall of Famers like quarterback Warren Moon. In recent years, there have been other superstars who were undrafted free agents, including Tony Romo, Kurt Warner, London Fletcher, Antonio Gates, Arian Foster, Brian Waters and Priest Holmes. Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith became the Super Bowl MVP after not getting invited to the Combine and being a seventh-round pick.

With so much talent falling through the cracks, WalterFootball.com decided to start a new series to showcase some of the under-the-radar talents in the 2014 draft class. These players could be late-round picks or undrafted free agents who end up becoming steals for their NFL teams.

This edition features Oklahoma linebacker Corey Nelson. After an impressive start to the year, his 2013 season ended early with a torn pectoral muscle. Prior to the injury, Nelson played well for the Sooners. He recorded 27 tackles with three tackles for a loss, one interception, one pass broken up and a sack in five games. The senior had good seasons in 2012 and 2011 and was a Second-Team All-Big XII selection as a sophomore.

Nelson is a speedy linebacker in the mold of other Oklahoma defenders. However, he needs to add weight for the NFL. Nelson helped his cause with a great pro day according to sources, and he showed that he maintained his speed while adding more strength. I asked Nelson about his pro day, and he said that his pro day numbers met his goals.

“I give God all the glory for that. I ran a 4.64. I weighed in at 231. I bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times, which is outstanding coming off the injury that I had, so I showed that I’m back to 100 percent and I can compete while getting stronger. It was an amazing feeling to go out and perform well. The scouts told me I looked fast and explosive. After the past few months of rehab and training, it was an amazing feeling that day.”

That’s a good weight gain for the NFL, at what weight do to you intend to play as a pro?

“Right now, I just weigh myself and I’m up to 231. I’m trying to get up to 235, but the weight feels great. It’s all good weight, nothing bad. I eat healthy and do well with my nutrition. Man, I’m feeling good at 231. It is an amazing look for me. I was playing at 220 or 225 in college, so to add five to six pounds of muscle after rehab is an amazing feeling.”

How was the rehab process from the torn pectoral?

“Rehab went well. I’m back to 100 percent. I feel great. The trainers did a great job of getting me back to where I was and moving beyond.”

For the NFL, what system do you feel you’ve been prepared to play in?

“I feel like I can do it all. Coming from Oklahoma, I played in a 4-3, 3-4 and a 4-2-5. I played every defense that I can think of for the NFL; we had multiple personal groupings. I’ve been in all the personal and I’m confident playing in any system.”

I’ve called the Big XII the Arena League of college football with the pass-happy offenses. However with each passing year, the NFL is becoming more of a passing-driven league, so getting the experience to play in pass defense will be valuable entering the next level. Do you feel well prepared for pass coverage?

“Absolutely, playing in the Big XII and at Oklahoma, that has allowed me to hone my coverage skills. For me to be able to go into the league with the same type of technique or the same type of terminology will help me tremendously. I can cover tight ends and running backs – even wide receivers if they need me to. Wherever they want to put me at, I’ll do it to the best of my abilities. I absolutely feel prepared to be able to go into the league and play well in pass defense”

A common question NFL teams ask players is who is the best player they played against. How would you answer that?

“I would say Lache Seastrunk, Tavon Austin, all the receivers that came out of Baylor and, of course, RG3. There have been so many great players I’ve played against.” Oklahoma finished the 2013 strong with wins over Oklahoma State and Alabama. Who are some of your teammates that you feel will be competing in the NFL?

“I’ll be honest with you, I think everybody on the starting 11 of the Oklahoma defense will be able to uphold everything the Oklahoma defense is known about. It is everyone. I think that Eric Striker, Dominique Alexander and Frank Shannon will definitely be good players.”

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