Quenton Nelson is a goon on the field. And that’s great news for Andrew Luck and the Colts, who made him the No. 6 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.
On just about every play of his that I watched, I saw a guy who wanted to dominate whoever he ended up blocking.
Didn’t matter if it was a running play or a passing play.
That Nelson is a goon is something that just jumps off the tape as soon as you turn it on because he ends so many plays driving defenders all over the field through the whistle.
But he’s so much more than that.
Notre Dame obviously recognized that Nelson wasn’t just a mauler because they called on him to make blocks out in space quite a bit.
And man, did he deliver!
In four games I counted 35 times that Nelson pulled either right or left to make a block.
As you can see, Nelson looked smooth and athletic running laterally on those pulls and he generally arrived at his aiming point under control and ready to block somebody.
He was even ready, willing and able to put somebody on their ass.
Even on the rare plays where he “missed” his block on some of those pulls, he usually forced the defender to avoid him in a direction that meant he still couldn’t make the play.
You don’t often see an offensive lineman who run blocks as well as Nelson does, who is also athletic enough to make those kinda hard blocks in space.
When you do, they usually don’t stay on the board long once the first round begins.
In addition to the pulling, Notre Dame also had Nelson blocking downfield on seven screens in those four games. On those plays, he was able to showcase the kind of agility that would make Nelson a legit first-round prospect even if he wasn’t also a beast of a run blocker.
But the pulls and screen blocks weren’t the only plays where Nelson showed that he is a bona fide athlete. He also showed himself to be one hell of a pass blocker. Nelson has been blessed with arms that are close 34 inches long, and boy, does he know how to use them. Nelson is very adept at using those long arms of his to shock pass rushers with his punch before they can get even get going.
Other times Nelson showed that even when he was patient and waited to engage, he was agile enough to handle most interior rushers’ speed with ease.
I only saw him “lose” a one-on-one pass rush battle twice times in four games. And even then, neither of those led to a pressure or a sack.
Nelson was also pretty adept at passing off pass rush games, something most college linemen seem to struggle with. He may be known more because of his run blocking, but I have to say that Nelson is a very polished pass blocker as well.
Any team that drafts Nelson will be able to plug him right into the line-up from day one. He will move people off the ball in the run game, and the staff won’t have to worry about him having any glaring deficiencies that will get their quarterback killed.
Talk about a win-win.
At 6’5 and around 330 pounds, it’s also worth noting that Nelson has at least the size to play tackle as well. I’m not sure if his feet are good enough where you could leave him on an island at left tackle long term, but I would be willing to bet that he could hold his own at left or right tackle in a pinch for a few games if you gave him some help.
That kind of position versatility can be very valuable for a team and very lucrative for Nelson later on. I’m sure that will be a plus for Nelson’s draft stock as well.
The reality is even if he never plays a down at tackle, Quenton Nelson showed a well rounded skill set and physical style that is worthy of a high first-round pick investment strictly at guard. He is the kind of guy that can give his new team a little attitude up front and that can’t hurt, either. With all these young, outstanding interior pass rushers in the league these days, a lot of teams need a guard like Nelson as a counter measure. The Colts were the ones to pull the trigger at No. 6.
And they will not live to regret it.
Since I don’t have access to all-22 for college football games, I use the next best thing for my draft profiles and go to Draft Breakdown where they post the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects already cut up and ready to go. For the purposes of this breakdown I watched Quenton Nelson play against Boston College, UNC, Miami and Stanford. Those represented the third, sixth, 10th and 12th games on Notre Dame’s schedule last season, respectively.