Quenton Nelson May Be The Best Player in the NFL Draft
There are some General Managers in the NFL who will openly state that they would never use a selection in the top half of the first round of the NFL Draft, let alone a selection among the top five or ten picks, on an interior offensive linemen. Yet, there are also many General Managers who will tell you that it’s more important to ensure you don’t draft a “bust” with your first round pick, than it is to draft a player who turns out to be a superstar.
And it’s that dichotomy that makes the draft prospects of offensive lineman Quenton Nelson from Notre Dame University so interesting, because he might secretly be the best overall prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The NFL scouting community has shown no reservations when it comes to gushing about just how “perfect” Nelson is as a prospect. At 6’5 and 325 pounds, he has prototype size for an interior offensive lineman. All the advanced analytics place him among the top five or six interior lineman — if not higher — in college football last year. His highlight reels are filled with him absolutely destroying defenders and blitzers. He’s coming from a school, and has worked under a college offensive line coach who helped produce one of the best interior offensive linemen in the NFL today (Zach Martin of the Dallas Cowboys).
Given that, it’s darn near impossible to see him falling outside of the top 10 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Indianapolis (with the 6th overall pick) could very easily take Nelson an plug him in at either guard spot, where they still have plenty of long-term questions. Tampa Bay (with the 7th overall pick) has made no reservations about wanting to upgrade the supporting cast around quarterback Jameis Winston, and Nelson would be an enormous boost to Winston’s protection, as well as the Buccaneers stalled running game. Chicago (with the 8th overall pick) very astutely hired former Fighting Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand — who coached Nelson at Notre Dame — as their own offensive line coach; think Hiestand wouldn’t lobby to have his new team draft his star pupil?
That’s assuming that Nelson even makes it to any of those picks. There’s plenty of reason to believe that the Denver Broncos could take Nelson at #5 overall, if they’re stuck with the pick and somehow miss out on the top four quarterbacks in the draft. And finally, what if Dave Gettleman, General Manager of the New York Giants, bucks all the aforementioned groupthink and actually uses the second overall pick in the draft on Nelson? It’s no secret that Gettleman is a proponent of building from the trenches outward, and you can’t do that any better than taking Nelson.
In the 2015 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins selected offensive lineman Brandon Scherff with the 5th overall pick. At the time, they took him with the idea of converting the All-American guard to a tackle in the NFL. But, they quickly realized it was a bad idea, and kept him at guard, where he’s become a Pro Bowl player. Yet despite that, there are some around the league – and even around the team – who believe that said 5th overall pick was too expensive a price to pay for a guard, even if he’s become a Pro Bowl player.
And that’s what makes the debate around Nelson so interesting. There are plenty of scouts and draft pundits who will tell you that they grade out Nelson even higher than superstud running back Saquon Barkley. So, will a team overlook their “draft prejudice” around offensive lineman, and pull the trigger on taking Nelson early on in the draft? Only time will tell.