A debate exists over whether Quenton Nelson should be a top-five draft pick. Nelson addressed that issue head-on at the 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Combine.
One of the raging debates in the weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft is a matter of how early a franchise can justify selecting an offensive guard. Guard play is important, but the current craze is selecting tackles who can contain the surplus of explosive edge defenders.
If you’re still on the fence about the prospect who’s at the heart of this widespread debate, he has a few words for you.
Quenton Nelson is breaking the NFL as one of the top five prospects available—a ranking he’s achieved by virtual consensus. Some believe he can play outside, but the fact that he’s a guard has made him a divisive figure whom most struggle to place in mock drafts.
“You have guys that are dominating the NFL right now in Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins, Fletcher Cox, that have just been working on interior guys, and you need guys to stop them,” Nelson said. “I’m one of those guys. You talk to quarterbacks, and they say if a D-end gets on the edge, that’s fine, they can step up in the pocket and they can throw. A lot of quarterbacks if given the opportunity can do that. That’s what I give is a pocket to step up in.
“I also help the offense establish the run through my nastiness, and establishing the run also opens up the passing game, so I think it’s a good choice.”
Elite edge defenders can torment quarterbacks, but if the field generals don’t have a pocket to step up in, that’s when said players can truly do their damage.
For all of the talk about how far defensive ends have come athletically, not enough attention has been given to the interior linemen. Players such as Geno Atkins, Fletcher Cox, Aaron Donald, Gerald McCoy, Kawann Short, and Ndamukong Suh have become dominating forces in the pass rush.
As soon as the ball is snapped, those players manage to collapse the pocket with their uncanny ability to create penetration from the interor of the line.
Players such as Damon Harrison, Johnathan Hankins, and Linval Joseph thrive against the run, destroying an opponent’s game plan by consuming multiple blockers.
What Nelson has expressed is that his value is being able to match up against said players in a one-on-one setting. He has the size, build, length, and strength to do so, as well as the tenacious competitive spirit to consistently take on those assignments.
Thus, while selecting a guard in the top five may not be common practice, Nelson is a can’t-miss prospect who’s coming along at the perfect time.
3-4 defenses have changed the way quarterbacks are rushed, which thus requires teams to change the way they protect their quarterback. Nelson is a scheme-versatile lineman who has the physical ability and desire to take on the modern linemen who are dominating games.
The concerns about drafting a guard in the top five are understandable, but if the reward is an anchor, it’s worth the risk. That’s exactly what Nelson can be.
The question is: Which team will make the decision to select Quenton Nelson in the top five of the 2018 NFL Draft?