Discussions about the Indianapolis Colts and offensive linemen used to be different.
Just a few short seasons ago, fans and pundits berated the line for exposing Andrew Luck to consistent abuse.
Featured: Andrew Luck and the Colts Offensive Line pic.twitter.com/oKA54qT221
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) September 22, 2015
Pundits scolded the team for endangering their quarterback by not addressing their weakest link.
Ultimately, the constant hits pushed a battered and bruised Luck into early retirement.
Even when the Colts finally invested in their line, some critics pounced.
After all, who uses a sixth-overall pick on a guard?
But Jim Irsay always had a different perspective on that 2018 selection.
Jim Irsay says Quenton Nelson is a top 10 player, will be Hall of Famer https://t.co/Npx5sKK7Dv
— Indiana Sports Coverage (@IndyCoverage) March 24, 2020
He still believes the Colts landed a future Hall of Famer in left guard Quenton Nelson.
Irsay already ranks Nelson among the top ten players on the NFL.
And he is probably right.
Exceeding Early Expectations
Quenton Nelson was the first offensive lineman drafted in 2018.
He was far and away the highest-rated player in that position group.
Nelson came off a senior year at Notre Dame when Pro Football Focus gave him a 92.2 overall grade.
In fact, in two seasons as a starter, Nelson never graded out at less than 85 in a single game.
Quenton Nelson was a joy to watch at ND. Still is with Indy! https://t.co/GRm6VXe0We
— wayne (@wayne_vt) March 20, 2020
Scouts loved his speed, quickness, motor, and power.
He consistently put defenders on the ground.
NFL evaluators gave him a grade of 7.4 at the NFL Combine.
That means they considered him a “perennial Pro Bowler.”
Takeaway from the Scouting Combine: He won’t go No. 1, but at least a few teams I spoke with have #NotreDame G Quenton Nelson as their top overall player. Countless scouts cracked up discussing his film and how he just buried guys over and over. ⚰️
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 7, 2018
At 6´5″ and 325 pounds, he wasn´t the biggest lineman out there.
But he was pure power with virtually no body fat.
If ever there was an offensive guard worth a top-10 draft pick, Nelson was the guy.
Proving his Professional Prowess
When Quenton Nelson lined up for Indianapolis, things changed upfront immediately.
Frank Reich and the coaching staff gets credit for adding creative schemes to protect Luck.
But Nelson´s aggressive and dominating ability carried into his attitude.
The savage life chose Quenton Nelson
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 14, 2018
And that attitude was contagious.
His combine rating proved prophetic so far.
Nelson was a Pro Bowl starter in his first two seasons.
But the sign of a great NFL player is if he makes others around him better.
Center Jim Kelly joined Nelson at the 2019 Pro Bowl.
It was the first selection of Kelly´s four-year career.
Anthony Castonzo put off retirement largely because he wanted to line up next to Nelson again.
— TheColtsWire (@TheColtsWire) March 19, 2020
Nelson is why Castonzo never considered exploring free agency options.
He is also why Castonzo landed a big contract from Chris Ballard.
Much More Ahead
Jim Irsay is right to heap praise on his left guard.
He is the true anchor of the Colts´offensive line.
As difficult as it is to rank any offensive lineman among the best players in the league,
Nelson will probably make it easier as his career progresses.
More seasons with over 1,000 snaps and no sacks allowed won´t hurt his chances.
That is what he did in 2019.
He took only three penalties all year, too.
Bringing back Castonzo isn´t the offseason move Colts fans should be most excited about.
Can’t wait to watch the Quenton Nelson vs. DeForest Buckner battles in Training Camp this year! pic.twitter.com/vl7qgSS8aZ
— Cody Felger (@CPFelger55) March 19, 2020
Watching Nelson go against the former Niner will be a constant practice field highlight.
Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni knows what a great draft pick Quenton Nelson was.
“This is a special guy and a great leader for this football team, and really leads by example. So, really, obviously ecstatic that he’s on our team, and he’s one of the leaders of this team.”
And he is someone who seems likely to validate Jim Irsay´s bold assessment.